With aging, taste sensation may diminish. Older people may find their food tastes bland so, for more taste, they may add abundant seasonings (particularly salt, which is harmful for some people) or they may desire very hot foods, which may burn the gums.
Older people may also have disorders or take drugs that affect their ability to taste. Such disorders include
Infections in the mouth, nose, or sinuses
Chronic liver Liver Failure Liver failure is severe deterioration in liver function. Liver failure is caused by a disorder or substance that damages the liver. Most people have jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), feel tired... read more or kidney disease Chronic Kidney Disease Chronic kidney disease is a slowly progressive (months to years) decline in the kidneys’ ability to filter metabolic waste products from the blood. Major causes are diabetes and high blood pressure... read more
Drugs affecting taste include some drugs used to treat high blood pressure (such as captopril), high cholesterol (such as the statins), and depression.
Tooth enamel tends to wear away with aging, making the teeth vulnerable to damage and decay. Tooth loss is the major reason that older people cannot chew as well and thus may not consume enough nutrients. When older people lose their teeth, the portion of the jaw bone that held those teeth in place gradually recedes and does not maintain its previous height.
A modest decrease in saliva production occurs with age and can be decreased further by some drugs. The decrease in saliva causes dry mouth Dry Mouth Dry mouth is caused by a reduced or absent flow of saliva. This condition can cause discomfort, interfere with speech and swallowing, make wearing dentures difficult, cause bad breath (halitosis)... read more (xerostomia). The gums may get thinner and begin to recede. Dry mouth and receding gums increase the likelihood of cavities. Some experts also believe that dry mouth may make the lining of the esophagus more susceptible to injury.
Despite dry mouth and receding gums, many older people retain their teeth, especially people who do not develop cavities or periodontal disease. Older people who lose some or all of their teeth will likely need partial or full dentures Dental Appliances Teeth may be lost to a number of disorders including cavities, periodontal disease, or injury or may be removed when treatment fails. Missing teeth may cause cosmetic and speech problems and... read more and/or implants.
Periodontal disease Periodontitis Periodontitis is a severe form of gingivitis, in which the inflammation of the gums extends to the supporting structures of the tooth. Plaque and tartar build up between the teeth and gums and... read more is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. Periodontal disease is a destructive disease of the gums and supporting structures caused by the long-term accumulation of bacteria. It is more likely to occur in people with poor oral hygiene, in people who smoke, and in people with certain disorders, such as diabetes mellitus, poor nutrition, leukemia, or AIDS. Though rare, dental infections caused by bacteria can also lead to pockets of pus (abscesses) in the brain Abscess of the Brain A brain abscess is a pocket of pus in the brain. An abscess may form in the brain when bacteria from an infection elsewhere in the head or in the bloodstream or from a wound enter the brain... read more , cavernous sinus thrombosis Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a very rare disorder in which a blood clot (thrombosis) forms in the cavernous sinus (a large vein at the base of the skull). Cavernous sinus thrombosis is usually... read more , unexplained fevers, and endocarditis Infective Endocarditis Infective endocarditis is an infection of the lining of the heart (endocardium) and usually also of the heart valves. Infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel... read more in people with specific severe heart abnormalities.
(See also Biology of the Mouth Biology of the Mouth The mouth is the entrance to both the digestive and the respiratory systems. The inside of the mouth is lined with mucous membranes. When healthy, the lining of the mouth (oral mucosa) ranges... read more and Biology of the Teeth Biology of the Teeth A tooth is divided into the crown, which is the part above the gum line, and the root, which is the part below the gum line. The crown is covered with white enamel, which protects the tooth... read more .)