Older men with oral health issues like tooth loss and gum disease are at an increased risk of frailty, a study has found.
Older men with oral health issues like tooth loss and gum disease are at an increased risk of frailty, a study has found. Frailty is the medical term for becoming more vulnerable to declining health or the inability to perform the activities of daily living. It increases the risk for falls, disability, and even death. Over a three-year period, researchers, including one of Indian origin, examined the relationship between poor oral health and older adults’ risks for becoming frail. The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, included 7,735 British men. They were first examined in 1978 to 1980 when they were 40- to 59- years-old. In 2010 to 2012, the researchers invited 1,722 surviving participants to be re-examined. During that time period, the participants were 71- to 92-years-old. The participants were given physical exams, which included height, weight, and waist measurements. They also answered a questionnaire asking about medical, social, and health-related information.
The exam included a dental test. Dental health professionals counted the participants’ natural teeth and measured the health of their gums. They answered questions about their dental health, including if they had dry mouth. The researchers also noted the participants’ frailty status. They were considered frail if they had at least three of these issues: exhaustion, weak grip strength, slow walking speed, weight loss, or low levels of physical activity. They found that 20 per cent participants had no teeth, 64 per cent had fewer than 21 teeth, 54 per cent had gum disease, 29 per cent had at least two symptoms of dry mouth, 34 per cent rated their oral health as “fair to poor” and 11 per cent said they had trouble eating.
According to the researchers, men with dental issues were more likely to be frail than men without those issues. These dental issues included having no teeth, having trouble eating, having dry mouth symptoms, or rating oral health as “fair to poor.” The experts also noted that complete tooth loss, dry mouth, and additional oral health concerns were especially linked to developing frailty.