Fewer teeth in older adults linked to social isolation


In some countries, including the United States and China, one in three older adults is lonely, according to the World Health Organization.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems among older adults, as many person-to-person interactions have been disrupted to protect older adults from infection.

Social isolation and loneliness are related but different. Social isolation is an objective measure defined as having few social relationships or infrequent social contact with others, while loneliness is a feeling produced by a lack of social connection. festival.

Older adults are also at risk for tooth loss. In China, the average person aged 65 to 74 has less than 23 teeth (adults usually have 32 teeth, or 28 if wisdom teeth have been removed) and 4.5% of this age group has lost them all. tooth.

Gum disease, smoking, lack of dental care and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease increase the risk of tooth loss. Missing teeth can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, affecting nutrition, speech, and self-esteem..

To understand the relationship between social isolation, loneliness, and tooth loss among older adults in China, the researchers used the China Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey to analyze data from 4,268 adults 65 years and older.

Participants completed surveys at three different time points (2011–2012, 2014 and 2018), capturing measures of social isolation and loneliness, the number of teeth people have and lost during 7 years of research and other factors.

More than a quarter (27.5%) of study participants were socially isolated and 26.5% reported feeling lonely.

The researchers found that higher levels of social isolation were associated with fewer teeth and faster tooth loss over time, even when controlling for other factors such as oral hygiene, status health status, smoking and drinking, and loneliness.

Older adults living in seclusion have, on average, 2.1 fewer natural teeth and 1.4 times the rate of tooth loss than those with stronger social ties..

This functional decline appears to be a major pathway linking social isolation to tooth loss but it is not associated with the number of teeth remaining, nor with the rate of tooth loss.

The findings are relevant for countries outside of China, as social isolation and tooth loss are global problems. They also stress the importance of developing interventions to reduce social isolation.

Programs may aim to promote intergenerational support in families and improve the social and peer connections of older adults in their local communities.

Source: Medindia

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