Researchers link tooth loss to increased obesity risk

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tooth loss linked to obesity risk
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An analysis of medical records from 1765 older adults by researchers in the US showed that patients with at least 21 teeth were more likely to maintain a healthy body weight than patients with fewer teeth.

Each additional missing tooth correlated with a two per cent increase in the likelihood of obesity, and each missing pair of opposing molars correlated with a seven per cent increase in the likelihood of obesity.

In the study, published in Gerodontologythe team examined data from 1765 adults ages 65 to 89 who underwent treatment at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine between 2016 and 2022. To analyse the relationship between the number of teeth and body mass index (BMI), they used statistical methods that adjusted for other factors that could affect BMI, such as age, gender, and existing health conditions.

Nearly 73 per cent of the participants were either overweight or obese. The median number of remaining teeth was 20. That’s just below the threshold of 21 needed for functional chewing, though 45 per cent of participants had at least 21 teeth. (A complete set typically has 32 teeth, including wisdom teeth.)

Unlike back teeth, which are more important for chewing, the front teeth are generally used to bite into food and didn’t appear to affect weight status as significantly as the back teeth did. There was no significant connection between the number of pairs of front teeth, which are typically lost after back teeth, and BMI.

“Many healthy foods, particularly raw fruits and vegetables, are hard to eat when you lack a functional dentition,” lead author Rena Zelig said.

“One possible explanation is that when people, especially older adults, are missing teeth and experience difficulty chewing, they start eating foods that are easier to eat but less healthy, like mashed potatoes, cookies, or doughnuts. These foods are typically higher in calories, fat, and sugar, resulting in weight gain.”

These results align with earlier studies suggesting that poor dental health is linked to weight issues. However, this study uniquely highlights the important role of back teeth in maintaining a healthy weight.

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