Socially isolated older adults may have fewer teeth: Study

Jan 25, 2022

New Delhi, Jan 25 (ANI): Researchers have found that older people who are socially isolated tend to lose their teeth more quickly than those with more social interaction. The study involved observing older Chinese adults and was led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. The findings were published in 'Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. "The findings align with previous studies demonstrating that structural indicators of social disconnection can have powerful effects on indicators of health and well-being," said Xiang Qi, a PhD student at NYU Meyers. Social isolation and loneliness in older adults have been major public health concerns around the world and are risk factors for heart disease, mental health disorders, cognitive decline, and premature death. In some countries, including the United States and China, up to one in three older adults were lonely, according to the World Health Organization. The COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated these issues among older adults, as many in-person interactions had been interrupted to protect older adults from infection. Social isolation and loneliness are related. Gum disease, smoking, lack of access to dental care, and chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease increase the risks of tooth loss. Missing teeth could have a significant impact on one's quality of life, affecting nutrition, speech, and self-esteem. The researchers found that higher levels of social isolation were associated with having fewer teeth and losing teeth more quickly over time, even when controlling for other factors such as oral hygiene, health status, smoking and drinking, and loneliness.