Diabetes, muscle loss linked to poor oral health in older adults

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A recently published study has found a connection between good oral health and possible diabetes prevention.

Researchers at Izumo, Japan’s Shimane University have conducted new research, according to Medical News Today. They discovered a minute but noticeably greater risk of diabetes and aging-related muscle loss and weakness or sarcopenia. This was found in older adults with oral frailty. Oral frailty involves problems chewing tied to age-related shifts in swallowing.

The findings were published in the PLOS One earlier this month.

“We aimed to examine the number of teeth and masticatory function as oral health indices and clarify their roles in the pathogenesis of sarcopenia and diabetes mellitus in community-dwelling older adults,” researchers wrote.

As part of the university’s Center for Community-Based Healthcare Research and Education study, researchers analyzed 635 participants ages 40 to 74. They assessed participants’ masticatory function, or chewing ability, by having them chew a jelly gummy as vigorously as possible for 15 seconds without swallowing. Then, participants spit out the remainder. Dental hygienists evaluated the pieces, counting them and the participant’s number of teeth.

Additionally, the team assessed sarcopenia status by handgrip strength, skeletal muscle index and calf circumference. Results accounted for physical activity levels, smoking, alcohol intake, age, sex and body mass index.

Researchers discovered fewer teeth remaining and less chewing ability had a notable connection to weakened muscles, muscle loss and weakened hand grip. A noticeable link was also found between diabetes and poor chewing ability and fewer teeth.

“Our findings suggest that improvement in oral health, including the maintenance of masticatory function and remaining teeth, may contribute to the prevention of sarcopenia and diabetes mellitus in older adults,” researchers concluded.

This isn’t the first study to link poor oral hygiene in older adults to adverse health outcomes.

A 2018 study concluded that poor oral status — including fewer natural teeth, chewing inability, and swallowing issues — can strongly predict the onset of physical frailty and disability.