Oral health problems are linked to frailty in older men, according to a new study. Researchers observed over 1,000 men over a three-year period and found those with poor oral health were more likely to suffer from weight loss, exhaustion, reduced gripping ability and walking speed, and low physical activity.
The study showed that 20% of the people examined had no teeth, 54% had gum disease, 29% suffered from dry mouth and 11% had trouble eating.
Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says older adults are more likely to experience issues in the mouth and this can have a direct effect on their overall wellbeing: “Problems are more common among older adults, with tooth loss, gum disease, tooth decay and dry mouth the most likely to occur. These conditions not only influence the health of the mouth but also impacts on a person’s quality of life too”.
The study highlighted the importance of oral health in the elderly and Dr Carter believes more could be done to identify and manage poor oral health of older adults: “Sensory impairments such as eye sight and hearing, poor physical function and a patient’s wider history of disease are often what is taken into consideration when identifying frailty, and oral health is often ignored when assessing the care of older people.
“Dental examinations and the health of a person’s mouth could become highly useful indicators of frailty and be added to general health screening assessments in older people”.