With advancing age, the human body undergoes physiological changes that can affect the functioning of all organs, including the gustatory system. These changes are a normal part of the ageing process and evolve gradually throughout the life cycle.
However, in some cases, these changes can become pathological when associated with medical conditions.
An increase in life expectancy has also led to an increase in interest in diseases associated with old age, requiring early treatment and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
The process of tasting food involves activating olfactory and taste receptors and transmitting signals to higher integrative centers in the central nervous system.
The taste buds located on the tongue are responsible for detecting chemicals in food and transmitting the information to the brain. In the next stage, salivary secretion is stimulated, which is essential for the formation of the food bowl.
In elderly patients, the following changes are observed in the taste receptors and in the oral stage of the digestion process:
Reduction in the number of taste receptors:
A consequence of this is that elderly patients may have difficulty appreciating the taste of food. They may consume foods that are either too sweet or too salty, as they can no longer correctly perceive the intensity of taste. This can lead to decreased appetite and eventually malnutrition. Depriving the body of nutrients can lead to imbalances throughout the body.
Many elderly patients suffer from tooth wear of varying degrees, except for those who have already lost teeth and wear dentures. Worn teeth can lose cusp and morphology and become smoother.
This can lead to a decrease in chewing efficiency.
Patients with dentures may have difficulty chewing food.
For example, patients with full dentures need to distribute food evenly on both sides of the dental arch to avoid tipping and loosening of the dentures.
Malnutrition is a common problem among elderly patients. It can have various causes, including poor dietary intake of essential nutrients and dental problems.
There are several factors that can contribute to malnutrition in the elderly, including reduced mobility, age-related conditions or lack of financial resources to feed themselves properly.
Neglecting diet and insufficient nutrient intake can lead to pathologies affecting the whole body.
Taste disorders are just one of the possible causes of malnutrition in the elderly.
Taste alterations can be of various types, including:
Hypogeusia: this is a decrease in taste perception, which makes food seem less palatable and does not offer the same gustatory pleasure as in the past.
Ageusia: in this condition, the patient loses taste sensation completely, resulting in a total lack of taste of food.
Phantogeusia: is a disorder in which the patient has a metallic taste sensation in the mouth. It can be caused by taking certain medications or it can have a psychological cause, such as the use of dentures.
Elderly patients are often affected by specific conditions that are associated with the ageing process and wear and tear on the body. These conditions can have a negative impact on appetite and can lead to the onset of anorexia, a significant weight loss. Anorexia may be caused by an eating disorder or may be the result of a general state of weakness associated with old age.
In order to prevent and manage eating disorders and malnutrition in elderly patients, it is important to have regular medical examinations to screen for general conditions.
Also, regular dental check-ups every 6 months or so are necessary to identify and address changes in the dento-maxillary system.
In conclusion, taste disorders in elderly patients can have negative consequences on their nutritional and health status.
It is essential that healthcare professionals are aware of these issues and provide elderly patients with appropriate support and care to help them maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Also, educating patients and their families about the importance
With advancing age, physiological changes occur in the whole body, with decreased activity and reactivity of all organs.
This is a normal process that takes place slowly, progressively and is part of the life cycle.
These changes can become pathological if diseases overlap.
Increasing life expectancy also means increasing interest in diseases associated with old age, treating them early and establishing the healthiest possible lifestyle.
Tasting a food involves activating olfactory and gustatory sensations and transmitting them to higher integrative centers in the central nervous system.
The taste buds on the tongue are responsible for taking in information from food placed in the oral cavity. In the next stage, salivary secretion is stimulated, a substance that is essential for the formation of the food bowl.
The oral stage of digestion involves the grinding of food, salivation and the formation of the food bolus, which is passed to the lower digestive tract.
In elderly patients, the following changes occur in the taste receptors and in the entire oral stage of digestion:
Numerical reduction of taste receptors – in the elderly the taste perception is negatively influenced.
Thus, the patient tends to no longer appreciate the degree of seasoning of the food, ingesting foods either too sweet or too salty.
A reduced appetite because the taste of food is no longer perceived is another consequence that ultimately leads to malnutrition.
Depriving the body of nutrients results in imbalances throughout the body.
Elderly dentition – is characterized by tooth wear of varying degrees, provided that edentulousness has not set in.
Through wear of the teeth, their occlusal surfaces, which play a role in the grinding of food, lose their degree of cuspidation and morphology and become smooth.
This leads to decreased masticatory efficiency.
Prosthesis wearers may experience problems in mastication.
For example, patients with full dentures need to distribute their food evenly across the hemiarches to avoid tipping and loosening of the denture parts.
Malnutrition characterizes a large proportion of elderly patients
Most often, the causes are poor dietary intake of constituents essential for normal function and problems with the teeth.
Malnutrition can have a variety of causes, not just loss or diminished taste.
These include: low mobility, age-related illnesses or not having the financial means to eat healthily.
Neglecting the diet leads to pathologies that affect the whole body.
Alteration of taste can take the following forms:
Hypogeusia – decreased taste perception
Aging – loss of taste sensation
Phantogeusia – is when the patient has a metallic taste sensation in the mouth. It may be due to the administration of medication or it may be psychogenic as a consequence of wearing dentures.
Elderly patients often have specific diseases, consistent with the degree of wear and tear on the body.
These, if severe and incapacitating, lead to decreased appetite and the onset of anorexia.
Anorexia is a slowly progressive disease that manifests itself in weight loss. It may mask a consumptive illness or be simply the consequence of the typical asthenia of the elderly.
Medical examinations should be carried out regularly to detect general pathologies and dental check-ups every 6 months or so to detect changes in the dento-maxillary apparatus.