Tooth loss can affect people’s intellectual activity and social roles, says research

oral health tooth loss

When people get old, their oral health becomes more important in daily functioning. Unhealthy teeth can cause difficulty in eating and harm their physical health.

In a study recently published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers find that tooth loss not only leads to problems in daily living, but also influences older people’s intellectual activity and social roles.

The study was conducted by Tohoku University, Chiba University, Kanagawa Dental University, and National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Japan, and University College London in the UK.

Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study. This type of study follows a group of similar individuals who have different features, and examines the effect of these features on the people. A total of 62,333 people aged 65 and older took part in the research.

All participants did not need long-term care. They reported how many their teeth they had and their medical and mental health history. Their functional capacity was measured with the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology Index of Competence (TMIG-IC).

This questionnaire includes three parts. The first part is instrumental activities of daily living, such as housework, preparing meals, and shopping for groceries. The second part is intellectual activity, such as reading books, playing chess, and learning a language. The third part is social roles, which means a person can behave appropriately based on social status.

The follow-up was from 2010 to 2013. Researchers controlled the influence of socioeconomic, demographic, and health factors.

Researchers found that during the follow-up period, participants’ TMIG-IC score declined about 0.247 points. Moreover, there was a significant association between tooth loss and decline in functional capacity. In participants who had 20 or more natural teeth, the functional capacity scores increased.

Researchers suggest that tooth loss in older people is related to future decline in functional capacity. Therefore, improving oral health is important and may help attenuate the decline in physical and mental health.

Citation: Sato Y, et al. (2016). Tooth Loss and Decline in Functional Capacity: A Prospective Cohort Study from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, published online. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14324.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.