It has been thought that maintaining good oral health may help older adults prevent a variety of health problems and disabilities. However, the effect of tooth loss on physical or cognitive health and wellbeing has been largely unknown.
In a study published in this month’s Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers explored the connection by examining information from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) project. Specifically, the team examined information obtained from more than 60,000 community-dwelling individuals aged 65 and older who did not meet the Japanese criteria for needing long-term care.
The participants who were given questionnaires to complete answered a number of questions, such as how many teeth they had, how many falls they had sustained in the past year, what their body weight was, and whether they smoked or drank alcohol. They were also asked about their medical and mental health history and their ability to perform the common activities of daily life.
When they analysed the data, the researchers learned older adults who have significant tooth loss are less functional mentally and physically when compared with those who lose fewer teeth.
Given these findings, the research team said it is essential that older adults receive the support they need to maintain good oral health self-care practices, and that they receive adequate dental care.