Poor dental health increases risks of frailty in older men

January 4, 2018, American Geriatrics Society

Oral health issues are common among older adults. These issues include tooth loss, gum disease, tooth decay, and dry mouth. These conditions can also affect an older adult's well-being because they may make it harder to eat, swallow, speak, get adequate nutrition, and even smile.

Oral health issues like and are also linked to increased risks of frailty. Frailty is the medical term for becoming more vulnerable to declining health or the inability to perform the activities of daily living. Frailty is a major healthcare challenge for and caregivers. Someone who is frail can be weak, have less endurance, and be less able to function well. Frailty increases the risk for falls, disability, and even death.

Over a three-year period, researchers from the United Kingdom examined the relationship between poor and older adults' risks for becoming frail. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers studied information from the British Regional Heart Study. This study 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, researchers invited 1,722 surviving to be re-examined. During that time period, the participants were 71- to 92-years-old.

Participants were given physical exams, which included height, weight, and waist measurements. They also took timed walking tests and had their grip strength measured. They answered questions about their medical history and lifestyle. They also answered a questionnaire asking about medical, social, and health-related information.

The exam included a dental exam. Dental health professionals counted the participants' natural teeth and measured the health of their gums. Participants answered questions about their dental health, including if they had dry mouth.

Researchers also noted the participants' frailty status. Participants were considered frail if they had at least three of these issues: exhaustion, weak , slow walking speed, weight loss, or low levels of physical activity.

The researchers found out the following facts about the participants' dental issues:

  • 20 percent had no teeth
  • 64 percent had fewer than 21 teeth
  • 54 percent had gum disease
  • 29 percent had at least two symptoms of dry mouth
  • 34 percent rated their oral health as "fair to poor"
  • 11 percent said they had trouble eating

The researchers said that 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 researchers also noted that complete tooth loss, , and additional oral health concerns were especially linked to developing frailty.

The researchers concluded that these findings highlight the importance of oral health for older adults, suggesting that poor oral contributes to frailty.

Explore further: Over 50s with fewer than 20 teeth at higher risk of musculoskeletal frailty

More information: Sheena E. Ramsay et al, Influence of Poor Oral Health on Physical Frailty: A Population-Based Cohort Study of Older British Men, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2017). DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15175

Related Stories

Over 50s with fewer than 20 teeth at higher risk of musculoskeletal frailty

December 11, 2017
New research by scientists at King's College London has found that tooth loss may contribute to musculoskeletal frailty in the over 50s, with those with fewer than 20 teeth being at greatest risk.

Frailty and older men: Study identifies factors that speed/slow progression

September 8, 2017
As we age, we may be less able to perform daily activities because we may feel frail, or weaker than we have in the past. Frailer older adults may walk more slowly and have less energy. Frailty also raises a person's risks ...

Losing teeth raises older adults' risks for physical and mental disability

September 13, 2016
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 well-being is unknown.

Lower weight, diabetes, and heart disease can worsen quality of life for frail older women

April 29, 2016
Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently learned that older women who are frail, and who have six or more chronic health conditions, are twice as likely to have a lower quality of life ...

Higher risk of dementia among frail older adults

November 16, 2017
The risk of developing dementia is around 3.5 times higher in frail older adults than in their non-frail peers, according to a new study from UCL.

Screening for both malnutrition and frailty needed to enhance health of aging populations

March 21, 2017
By 2035 one in four Canadians will be 65 years old or older, an age group prone to malnutrition and frailty. A new literature review published today in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism describes the similarities ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.