By Sarah Knapton, science editor
11 DECEMBER 2017 • 12:01AM
Dentures put wearers at risk of malnutrition because they cause wearers to avoid healthy foods which are difficult to chew, a major study has shown.
Researchers at King’s College London found the same was true for people with teeth loss, who also struggle to chew food properly.In both cases, tooth loss and wearing dentures was associated with joint and muscle frailty which can leave people at risk of bone breakages and falls.
The scientists said that people with dentures, or fewer teeth find it difficult to eat foods such as fibrous fruits and vegetables, nuts and meat, which are essential for good nutrition. Although dentures improves chewing function, the bite force is much weaker than that of natural teeth, meaning users often avoid certain foods.
“Persons with inadequate dentition are less likely to eat hard food that is difficult to chew, for example, some of the fresh fruits and vegetables, apples, pears, carrots, nuts etc,” said Dr Wael Sabbah, from King’s College London Dental Institute.
“They could also have difficulties in eating some cooked food such as meat, depending on the way it is cooked.”
Around 11 million people wear dentures in Britain. Although just six per cent of people now have no teeth compared to 37 per cent in 1978, 74 per cent have needed at least one tooth extracting.
The study examined the health of more than 1,800 people who had an average age of 62, and were categorised into three groups; having at least 20 teeth, denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth, and people and non-denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth.
Researchers tested all groups for strength, frailty, BMI and oral health and interviewed about their nutritional intake.
The group that had less than 20 teeth and did not use dentures, and those who used dentures, were found to have consumed the least amount of nutrients, compared to recommended daily amounts. They were also found to be more frail.
Denturewearers and those with fewer teeth were 32 per cent more likely to be frail and 20 per cent more likely to be nutritionally deficient.
The researchers say the study demonstrates how important oral health is in preventing tooth loss which can cause nutritional deficiencies in later life.
Nutrients are crucial to maintain muscle mass and stave off musculoskeletal frailty.
“Few studies have examined the relationship between oral health, the number of teeth and general frailty,” added Dr Sabbah.
“One of the important findings of the study is the significant relationship between the condition of teeth and deficiency in intake of essential nutrients, regardless of the use of dentures.
“To date, the majority of efforts to improve frailty have focused on nutrition strategies, including health education, while the influence of teeth on dietary restraint of the elderly has been neglected.
“The findings of this analysis, along with that reported in earlier research, suggest that the use of denture could be a neglected intervention that could potentially have a preventative impact on musculoskeletal frailty.
“The results also highlight the importance of developing oral health policies to ensure older adults maintain functional dentition throughout their life.”
The research was published in the journal Geriatrics & Gerontology International.