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Losing teeth as you get older? You could be at greater risk of physical and mental disability

We’ve all heard how important it is to practice good dental hygiene in order to not only keep our teeth and gums healthy, but to ward off a variety of health problems and disabilities. However, new research published in a recent edition of the online Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has advised that older people with significant tooth loss are at a higher risk of physical and mental disability as compared to older people with better oral health.

Until this study, the effects of losing teeth on our physical and cognitive health and well-being have not been known. Now the researchers have found a connection between poor oral health and the level of physical and mental functioning of older adults. By using data gleaned from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study project, otherwise known as JAGES, the research team were able to look at information collected from over 60,000 people of 65 years and older, who were living in the community and who did not meet the criteria in Japan for long-term care.

All of the participants were required to complete a set of questionnaires where they were asked a variety of questions including:

  • The number of teeth they’d retained
  • Their medical and mental health history
  • If they’d had any falls in the last twelve months and if so, how many
  • Whether they were a smoker or drank alcohol
  • How much they weighed

They were also asked questions on how well they were able to perform routine daily activities, such as getting dressed, cooking meals and cleaning.

From their analysis of the answers, the research team found that the older adults who reported significant loss of teeth were less functional in comparison to those people who had lost fewer teeth. As a result of their findings, the researchers have suggested that it’s essential that older people seek and receive adequate support in order to maintain good oral health, both through self-care and through professional dental treatment.

The moral of the story – take care of your teeth if you want to function better as you get older.

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