Oral Health, Disability and Physical Function: Results From Studies of Older People in the United Kingdom and United States of America

Eftychia Kotronia, S. Goya Wannamethee, A. Olia Papacosta, Peter H. Whincup, Lucy T. Lennon, Marjolein Visser, Robert J. Weyant, Tamara B. Harris, Sheena E. Ramsay

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Objectives: Studies examining the associations between oral health and disability have limited oral health measures. We investigated the association of a range of objectively and subjectively assessed oral health markers with disability and physical function in older age. Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional analyses were based on the British Regional Heart Study (BRHS) comprising men aged 71 to 92 years (n = 2147) from 24 British towns, and the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (HABC) Study comprising men and women aged 71 to 80 years (n = 3075) from the United States. Assessments included oral health (periodontal disease, tooth count, dry mouth, and self-rated oral health), disability, and physical function (grip strength, gait speed, and chair stand test). Results: In the BRHS, dry mouth, tooth loss, and cumulative oral health problems (≥3 problems) were associated with mobility limitations and problems with activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living; these remained significant after adjustment for confounding variables (for ≥3 dry mouth symptoms, odds ratio (OR) 2.68, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.94–3.69; OR 1.76, 95% CI 1.15–2.69; OR 2.90, 95% CI 2.01, 4.18, respectively). Similar results were observed in the HABC Study. Dry mouth was associated with the slowest gait speed in the BRHS, and the weakest grip strength in the HABC Study (OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.22, 2.50; OR 2.43, 95% CI 1.47–4.01, respectively). Conclusions and Implications: Markers of poor oral health, particularly dry mouth, poor self-rated oral health, and the presence of more than 1 oral health problem, were associated with disability and poor physical function in older populations. Prospective investigations of these associations and underlying pathways are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1654.e1-1654.e9
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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