Older adults were also found to be at risk for impaired oral health, the findings showed. These patients also had higher rates of weight loss, lower appetite and were at increased risk for dementia and/or depression as well as severe illnesses than those who had a normal nutrition status.
“The mouth is the entry way for food and fluid intake. If its integrity is impaired, the functional ability of an individual to consume an adequate diet may be adversely impacted,” said Rena Zelig, lead author at Rutgers University in the US.
Further, the researchers said that dental clinics were ideal locations to perform nutritional status screenings as they can identify patients who may not regularly visit a primary care provider and who may be at risk for malnutrition.
“Clinicians also can provide patients with referrals to Registered Dietitians and community assistance programmes such as Meals on Wheels to prevent further decline in nutritional status,” Zelig said.
The study, published in Journal of Ageing Research and Clinical Practice, analysed the health records of 107 senior citizens treated aged 65 and above.
The results showed that 20.6 per cent of participants were at risk for malnutrition and 4.7 per cent were malnourished.
In addition, greater than 87 per cent of them partially or completely lacked teeth.
However, further study was needed to examine the relationships between tooth loss and malnutrition risk and the impact of tooth loss on the eating experience and eating-related quality of life, the researchers said.