Study finds oral health indirectly influences the wellbeing of older adults

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Oral health influences subjective wellbeing in older adults through its effects on nutritional status and the individual’s environment, Japanese researchers have found.

In the study—published in PLOS ONE—the team examined oral conditions such as bacterial load in the tongue coating, chewing ability, swallowing ability, and more, among older adults visiting a dental clinic in Okayama University Hospital, and examined how these measurements were related to participants’ self-reported psychological wellbeing. 

They also measured participants’ nutritional status and environmental characteristics including social connections, habits, and medical history.

“The scientific evidence for the relationship between oral health and psychological wellbeing is limited,” Dr Noriko Takeuchi said.

“To overcome the limitations of the previous studies and as a step toward health promotion, we evaluated the association between individual and environmental characteristics, oral condition, and nutritional status in relation to subjective wellbeing among older adults.”

The findings of the study revealed that oral condition is related to nutritional status, which in turn, is related to subjective wellbeing among older adults. Oral condition plays a significant role in determining the types of food that a person can consume. Therefore, an individual’s oral condition may influence nutritional intake, thus influencing their health status.

In addition, this study provides evidence for a bidirectional connection between oral health and a person’s individual and social environment. This connection can be explained by the fact that poor social relations are associated with psychological stress leading to habits such as smoking and sweet consumption, thereby increasing the risk of cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Moreover, it reports a connection between a person’s environmental characteristics and nutritional status. Overall, the findings suggest that oral health may not directly influence the subjective wellbeing, but indirectly, through nutritional status or environmental characteristics.

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