Wearing dentures has been linked to a higher risk of musculoskeletal frailty, research has found.
Over 50s with fewer than 20 of their own teeth are more likely to experience frailty in their joints and muscles, a study by scientists at King’s College London found.
Although the reason for this was not proven, they believe this is because denture wearers avoid eating certain foods and so are missing out on vital nutrients.
They said that although dentures improves masticatory function, their bite force is much weaker than that of natural teeth.
The team found that those with more than 20 teeth were significantly less likely to be frail and were also found to have consumed the greatest amount of nutrients over the study period.
The participants with fewer than 20 teeth and who did not use dentures – as well as those who did use dentures – were found to have consumed the least amount of nutrients, when compared with the Recommended Dietary Intakes recommended by the US food and drug administration.
Researchers said their findings highlight the important need for older people to be able to maintain the ability to not just chew, but to chew effectively, in order to take on board the essential nutrients necessary to maintain muscle mass and stave off musculoskeletal frailty.
The study, which is published in Geriatrics & Gerontology International, was led by Dr Wael Sabbah of King’s College London Dental Institute.
He said: ‘Few studies have examined the relationship between oral health, particularly periodontal disease, the number of teeth and general frailty.
‘While others have argued that older adults who need dentures were more likely to be frail, there were few attempts to explain the underpinning cause of the relationship.
‘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 research team made its findings after analysing the health of 1,800 Americans aged 50 years and older.
Participants were categorised into three groups: those with at least 20 teeth, denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth, and non-denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth.