Oral health strongly influences well-being in older adults

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Oral health is more than just about having a bright smile; it plays a crucial role in our overall health and well-being.

This is particularly true for older adults.

We know that keeping our teeth and gums healthy can help avoid costly dental work later in life and reduce the risk of many physical illnesses. Researchers are now exploring how oral health might also impact our mental well-being.

At Okayama University Hospital, a team led by Senior Assistant Professor Noriko Takeuchi has been delving into this topic.

Their research was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE. They focused on understanding if there’s a link between oral health and the psychological well-being of older adults.

The researchers looked at several oral conditions like bacterial load on the tongue, chewing and swallowing ability, and more in older adults who visited a dental clinic.

They wanted to see how these oral health factors relate to the participants’ self-reported mental well-being.

In addition to oral health, they also considered the participants’ nutritional status and environmental factors, such as social connections, lifestyle habits, and medical history.

What they found was quite interesting. Oral health seemed to be linked to nutritional status.

This makes sense because if you have trouble chewing or swallowing, you might not be able to eat certain foods, which can then impact your overall health. And this, in turn, was related to the subjective well-being of the older adults in the study.

Dr. Takeuchi explains that maintaining good oral health could lead to better nutrition, and this could help improve not just physical health but also psychological well-being. It’s like a chain reaction: healthy mouth, better diet, happier mind.

Another key finding of their study was the bidirectional relationship between oral health and a person’s individual and social environment.

For instance, poor social relationships can lead to stress, which might result in harmful habits like smoking or eating too many sweets. These habits can damage teeth and gums, leading to a decline in oral health.

The study also found a link between a person’s environment and their nutritional status. This suggests that oral health doesn’t directly impact mental well-being but does so indirectly through nutrition or environmental factors.

With Japan’s rapidly aging population, this research is particularly relevant. It highlights the importance of oral health in geriatric care and suggests that investing in oral health can have broad health benefits, especially as we get older.

If you care about gum health, please read studies about an important causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and common tooth disease that may increase risks of dementia.

For more information about gum health, please see recent studies about mouthwash that may increase your tooth damage, and results showing this diet could help treat gum disease.

The research findings can be found in PLOS ONE.

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