Healthy teeth contribute to healthy aging

By • Published: May 24th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Teeth aren’t just for eating. They also can give clues about a person’s health. It turns out that among older adults, those pearly whites can be useful markers of whether people are aging in a way that lets them stay in tip-top shape… and be able to perform the basic activities of daily living.

Physical disability… and the resulting loss of independence… is one of the main problems people face as they age.

Now new research links tooth health with seniors’ capacity for physical independence.

Among elderly people living in retirement communities, problems with chewing were related to disability level, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

But why would tooth health affect physical and functional ability?

Well, when people can’t chew properly they tend to eat less food and avoid hard-to-chew items. That means they often miss out on nutritious options such as fruits, vegetables and other foods that are rich in vitamins and protein. Instead, they go for soft and gooey alternatives that often are rich in fat.

The combination of avoiding nutritious foods and eating unhealthful ones can lead to malnutrition, which, in turn, can lead to weakness and disability.

Physicians and geriatrics researchers continue to look for lifestyle interventions that can help seniors lead healthy, independent lives for as long as possible. Some early studies suggest that physical activity can help stave off injuries and disability. Now it seems that keeping those teeth and dentures in good working order is another way for seniors to head down the path of a healthier and happier life.