Study Links Denture Use and Malnutrition

A new study out of King’s College London has found that losing teeth and wearing dentures can increase the risk of malnutrition, according to a recent Medscape article. Individuals in this situation may have a reduced ability to chew properly, leading those over the age of 50 to avoid healthier foods, researchers claim.

The study was published in the journal Geriatrics and Gerontology International and involved 1,852 people in the US. Participants were all aged 50 and over and were enrolled in a national health and nutrition survey. Individuals were placed in 3 categories: 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. The main problems identified were frailty in joints and muscles and subsequent vulnerability to falls.

The level of frailty was measured using handgrip strength tests, with nutrition levels, oral health, and body mass index (BMI) were also assessed. The researchers found that participants with more than 20 teeth were significantly less likely to be frail when compared to those with fewer than 20 teeth who did not use dentures. Additionally, 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.

The researchers did not delve into the reason why tooth loss and dentures are linked to bone and muscle frailty, but the study did conclude that loss may affect older people’s ability not just to chew, but to chew effectively. Individuals who wear dentures might find that their bite force is weaker than when they had natural teeth, causing many to avoid certain hard to chew foods, the authors said. Previous studies on the topic have suggested that an adequate calorie intake along with sufficient micronutrients play a key role in musculoskeletal frailty. Other scientists have argued that chewing inability, mainly due to tooth loss, is to blame.

The authors of the latest study say stated that their analysis generally agrees with both of these assessments. They say that denture use and oral health could be an important consideration when assessing nutrition and musculoskeletal frailty in older people.

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