Poor oral health has been linked to weight loss, exhaustion and low physical activity in older men, research has found.
The study looked at 1,000 men aged between 71 and 92 over three years and found that those with poor oral health also had a reduced gripping ability and a reduction in walking speed.
‘Oral health problems are more common among older adults with tooth loss, gum disease, tooth decay and dry mouth the most likely to occur,’ Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said.
‘These conditions not only influence the health of the mouth but also impacts on a person’s quality of life too.
‘We often see first-hand the difficulties that poorer oral health in the elderly can have, including making it harder to eat, swallow, speak, get adequate nutrition, and even smile.
‘Elderly people who are suffering with poor oral health could also be in pain and discomfort and experience problems their mouth and jaw.’
The importance of oral health
The Oral Health Foundation claims this study highlights the importance of oral health in the elderly.
The UK is currently facing significant changes to its elderly population, with the number of people over 60 expected to increase by around seven million in the next 20 years.
‘Sensory impairments such as eye sight and hearing, poor physical function and a patient’s wider history of disease are often what is taken into consideration when identifying frailty, oral health is often ignored when assessing the care of older people,’ Dr Carter continued.
‘Dental examinations and the health of a person’s mouth could become highly useful indicators of frailty and be added to general health screening assessments in older people.
‘The Government must begin to take a greater interest in identifying the needs of the elderly population at an earlier stage in order for healthcare providers to manage them quickly and correctly.’