It may be hard to believe, but according to the National Council on Aging falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 fall each year.
As falling becomes more of a public health concern, there is some interesting new research that could shed light on another possible cause for elderly falls: Poor oral health.
Oral Risk Factors Identified
Japanese scientists, who wanted to identify risk factors for falls in the elderly, studied more than 40-thousand people, ages 65 and older, over the course of three years. Through answered questionnaires, the scientists were able to determine that for both sexes, poor oral function, including difficulty eating tough foods and choking, was associated with incident falls. However, females who had between 10 and 19 teeth and lacked dentures were significantly associated with incident falls; compared with those who had more than 20 teeth.
Additionally, those who had fewer than nine teeth, with or without dentures, experienced a higher likelihood of falls.
Adding interesting results to the research community, these findings suggest that poor oral health, having fewer teeth, and not using dentures are predictors of incident falls.Though this area needs further investigation to determine whether improving oral health can reduce the risk of falls in the elderly, basic screening tests that assess oral health may contribute to less fails in frail older adults.
Physical and Emotional Toll
Elderly falls can take a dramatic toll on a person’s physical and emotional health. A growing number of older adults are so afraid of falling that they limit their activities and social engagements. This, doctors say, can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
If you or someone you know is ask risk for falls, please visit please visit ncoa.org/FallsPrevention for more information.
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