Older adults with more natural teeth are better able to perform everyday tasks such as cooking a meal, making a telephone call, or going shopping, according to Japanese research.
The study by researchers from UCL and the Tokyo Medical and Dental University—and published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society—analysed data from 5631 adults from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) aged between 50 and 70.
Previous studies have shown a link—but not a causal link—between tooth loss and reduced functional capacity. In this study the research team wanted to investigate the causal effect of tooth loss on someone’s ability to carry out daily activities.
After considering factors such as participants’ socioeconomic status and poor general health, they still found there was an independent link between tooth loss and the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
For the study, participants were asked how many natural teeth they had, with older adults reporting having lost up to 32 natural teeth over time. Then, using data collected in 2014-2015, the researchers measured the effect of tooth loss on people’s ability to carry out key instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), such as preparing a hot meal and shopping for groceries.
“Even after taking in factors such as a participant’s education qualification, self-rated health and their parents’ education level for example, we still found a positive association between the number of natural teeth a person had and their functional ability,” senior author Professor Georgios Tsakos said.