Tooth loss may indicate malnutrition

tooth loss malnutrition

Older adults are at risk for both impaired oral health and malnutrition, according to a study by Rutgers University researchers.

The US study, recently published in the Journal of Aging Research and Clinical Practice, analysed the health records of 107 community-dwelling senior citizens treated at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine clinic in New Jersey between 2015 to 2016.

The results showed that more than 25 per cent of the patients had malnutrition or were at risk for malnutrition. Moreover, those patients with 10 to 19 teeth were more likely to be at risk for malnutrition. 

Those patients classified as having malnutrition had higher rates of weight loss, ate less and more frequently reported that they suffered with dementia and/or depression and severe illnesses than those who had a normal nutrition status.

“The mouth is the entry way for food and fluid intake,” lead author Rena Zelig said. “If its integrity is impaired, the functional ability of an individual to consume an adequate diet may be adversely impacted.”

Although further studies need to examine the relationships between tooth loss and malnutrition risk, Zelig said the findings show that dental clinics are ideal locations to perform nutritional status screenings as they can identify patients who may not regularly visit a primary care provider and who may be at risk for malnutrition. 

“Clinicians also can provide patients with referrals to registered dietitians and community assistance programs such as Meals on Wheels to prevent further decline in nutritional status,” she said.

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