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Self-rated oral health may indicate body weight changes in older people

22 Jun 2020

Self-rated oral health in community-dwelling older adults can help reveal changes in their body weight in the long term, a study has shown. This simple measure may be used to identify a risk for weight loss and to initiate oral interventions in clinical practice.

The investigators analysed prospective data with a 10-year follow-up of 657 Dutch community-dwelling older adults (age, 66.4±5.8 years; 54 percent female) from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. They also assessed participants’ characteristics, body weight, and 12 oral health variables (ie, teeth, dentures, nine oral problems, self-rated oral health) in 2005/2007 and 2015/2016.

Mixed models were used to examine the relationship between oral health and body weight, adjusted for demographic, socioeconomic, smoking, health, and functional aspects considering data of both assessments.

Mean body weights were 79.1±13.3 and 77.6±13.8 kg at baseline and follow-up, respectively. At baseline, 29.6 percent of the participants reported being edentulous (follow-up: 34.4 percent) and 55.8 percent were wearing dentures (follow-up: 62.3 percent).

Xerostomia was the oral problem with the highest prevalence at both examinations (baseline: 24.3 percent; follow-up: 30.0 percent), while dental pain while chewing had the lowest prevalence (baseline: 5.2 percent; follow-up: 6.6 percent). Most participants rated their oral status as healthy both at baseline (65.2 percent) and follow-up (66.9 percent).

Edentulism and denture use were not longitudinally associated with body weight, so were oral problems. On the other hand, self-rated oral health correlated with body weight (b=0.724; SE=0.296; p=0.015) after adjusting for confounders.

Knowledge about factors affecting body weight is necessary in order to prevent involuntary weight loss in older people, according to the investigators.

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