Tooth loss and gum disease are poor oral health issues that increase the risk of frailty in the elderly. Their ability to speak, eat and smile might all be curbed, reveals a new study.
Frailty is the medical term for becoming more vulnerable to declining health or the inability to perform the activities of daily living.
According to the researchers, led by Sheena E. Ramsay, a clinical senior lecturer at Newcastle University, frailty is a major healthcare challenge for older adults. Someone who is frail can be weak, have less endurance, and be less able to function well. It increases the risk for falls, disability or even death.
In 2010 to 2012, researchers invited 1,722 surviving participants to be re-examined. During that time period, the participants were 71 to 92-years-old.
Participants were given physical exams, which included height, weight and waist measurements.
They also took timed walking tests and had their grip strength measured. They answered questions about their medical history and lifestyle. They also answered a questionnaire asking about medical, social, and health-related information.
The exam included a dental exam and researchers also noted the participants' frailty status. Participants were considered frail if they had at least three of these issues: exhaustion, weak grip strength, slow walking speed, weight loss, or low levels of physical activity.
The researchers found that 20 percent had no teeth, 64 percent had fewer than 21 teeth, 54 percent had gum disease, 29 percent had at least two symptoms of dry mouth, 34 percent rated their oral health as "fair to poor", and 11 percent said they had trouble eating.
The researchers said that men with dental issues were more likely to be frail than men without those issues. These dental issues included having no teeth, having trouble eating, having dry mouth symptoms, or rating oral health as "fair to poor".