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Tooth loss implicated in frailty status in older adults

23 Nov 2019

A recent study conducted in older Chinese adults has found that the fewer the teeth, the higher the odds of frailty.

Researchers used 2014 wave data from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, which used a targeted random-sampling design, and included 3,635 older adults (average age, 84.27 years; 51.8 percent female; 55.4 percent had normal body mass index [BMI]). More than half of the population never smoked (66.3 percent), never drank alcohol (72 percent), did physical labour regularly (82.3 percent) and did not exercise (68.2 percent).

The prevalence of frailty (measured using the Frailty Index) was 27.68 percent, and the mean number of teeth present was 9.23. Multivariable logistic regression revealed frailty to be associated with the following: demographic variables, health behaviours, BMI, tooth number and chewing pain.

Compared with older adults who had 20 teeth, those who had fewer were at much greater odds of frailty (no teeth: odds ratio [OR], 2.07, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.53–2.80; 1–10 teeth: OR, 1.77, 95 percent CI, 1.31–2.38), except for older adults with 11–20 teeth (OR, 1.30, 95 percent CI, 0.93–1.82).

The current findings support the association between severe periodontitis and the incidence of frailty, the researchers said, explaining that tooth loss as a final consequence of periodontitis could contribute to frailty via inflammation.

More studies are required to establish the specific mechanisms underlying how oral health status is associated with frailty, they added.

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Pearl Toh, 31 Dec 2019
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