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Dentures and tooth loss linked to malnutrition

WebMD UK Health News Brief
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

11th December 2017 – Losing teeth and wearing dentures can increase your risk of malnutrition, according to a study.

A reduced ability to chew properly can lead to people over the age of 50 avoiding some healthier foods, say researchers at King's College London.

Muscle and bone frailty

The main problems they identified were frailty in joints and muscles and subsequent vulnerability to falls.

The study, published in the journal Geriatrics and Gerontology International, involved 1,852 people in the US aged 50 and over who were enrolled in a national health and nutrition survey.

Participants were categorised into 3 groups: those having at least 20 teeth, denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth, and those who did not wear dentures but had fewer than 20 teeth.

Their level of frailty was measured using handgrip strength tests, and their nutrition levels, oral health, and  body mass index (BMI) were also assessed.

The researchers report that participants with more than 20 teeth were significantly less likely to be frail than those with fewer than 20 teeth who did not use dentures.

Furthermore, those with the most teeth were more likely to have had a nutritious diet than those with fewer than 20 teeth, as well as those who wore dentures.

Chewing strength

The research paper did not examine the reason why tooth loss and dentures is linked to bone and muscle frailty. However, the study says tooth loss may affect older people's ability not just to chew, but to chew effectively.

People who wear dentures may find their bite force is weaker than if they had natural teeth, meaning users may avoid certain hard to chew foods, the authors say.

Previous studies have suggested that an adequate calorie intake along with sufficient micronutrients play an important role in musculoskeletal frailty. Other researchers have argued that chewing inability, mainly because of tooth loss, is to blame.

The authors of the latest study say their analysis generally agrees with both these assessments.

They say that denture use and oral health could be an important consideration when considering nutrition and musculoskeletal frailty in older people.

Reviewed on December 11, 2017

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