Dr. Sheena Ramsey, Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, is the coauthor of a study that looked into identifying the link between poor oral health and physical frailty in a group of older British men. Although the link between poor oral health and good levels of nutrition seems obvious, it is important to seek evidence that proves such association. The cross-sectional and longitudinal study they conducted followed a cohort of older British men as part of the British Regional Heart Study.
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The purpose of the study was to investigate the associations between objective and subjective measures of oral health and incident physical frailty.
The study design was a Cross-sectional and longitudinal study with 3 years of follow-up using data from the British Regional Heart Study.
The setting of the study included general practices in 24 British towns and the participants were Community-dwelling men aged 71 to 92 (N = 1,622).
Objective assessments of oral health included tooth count and periodontal disease. Self-reported oral health measures included overall self-rated oral health; dry mouth symptoms; sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet; and perceived difficulty eating.
Frailty was defined using the Fried phenotype as having 3 or more of weight loss, grip strength,exhaustion, slow walking speed, and low physical activity. Incident frailty was assessed after 3 years of follow-up in 2014.
Three hundred three (19%) men were frail at baseline (aged 71–92). Having fewer than 21 teeth, complete tooth loss, fair to poor self-rated oral health, difficulty eating, dry mouth, and more oral health problems were associated with greater likelihood of being frail. Of 1,284 men followed for 3 years, 107 (10%) became frail.
The risk of incident frailty was higher in participants who were edentulous; had 3 or more dry mouth symptoms; and had 1, 2, or 3, or more oral health problems after adjustment for age, smoking, social class, history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus, and medications related to dry mouth.
The presence of oral health problems was associated with greater risks of being frail and developing frailty in older age. The identification and management of poor oral health in older people could be important in preventing frailty.
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