Poor dental health leads to frailty among elderly


London: Poor oral health issues such as tooth loss and gum disease increases the risk of frailty in older men, while curbing their ability to speak, eat and even smile on their own, researchers, including one of Indian origin, have warned.

Frailty is the medical term for becoming more vulnerable to declining health or the inability to perform the activities of daily living.

According to the researchers, led by Sheena E. Ramsay, a clinical senior lecturer at Newcastle University, frailty is a major healthcare challenge for older adults. Someone who is frail can be weak, have less endurance, and be less able to function well. It increases the risk for falls, disability or even death.

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, researchers invited 1,722 surviving participants 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 and researchers also noted the participants’ frailty status. Participants 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.

The researchers found that 20 per cent 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.

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”.

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