People Older Than 100 May Have the Strongest Teeth

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Centenarians and their offspring had better oral health than people of the same age who died before 100

June 12, 2014 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) People who live to be 100 years old or more are likely in very good health. New research suggests that it all might start in the mouth.

A recent study found that people over the age of 100 and their children had better oral health than people who did not live past 100 and their children.

The researchers discovered that better oral health was associated with lower odds of disease and better overall health.

"Get a dental check-up at least twice a year."

The lead author of this study was Laura B. Kaufman, DMD, from the Section of Geriatrics in the Department of Medicine at Boston Medical Center and the Department of General Dentistry in the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University.

The study included 64 centenarians (people who lived beyond 100 years old) and 437 offspring of centenarians.

There was also a control (comparison) group of 229 people made up of spouses of centenarian offspring and the offspring of parents born at the same time as the centenarians, but died around 73 years old — the average life expectancy for people born in the 1900 birth cohort (between 1896 and 1915).

The average age of the centenarians was 106 years old. The average age of the centenarian offspring was 78 years old, and the average age of the control group was 77 years old.

A total of 11 percent of the centenarians were African-American, 1 percent of the centenarian offspring group was non-Caucasian, and 1 percent of the control group was non-Caucasian.

The participants filled out a self-report oral health questionnaire between May and October 2011.

The questionnaire included questions on general oral health, number of natural teeth still present, presence of any loose teeth or bleeding gums, whether or not they wore dentures, how many times they had visited the dentist in the year prior to the study, and the number of times per day they brushed and flossed their teeth.

The researchers collected data on the participants’ health status each year through questionnaires.

The findings showed that 35 percent of the centenarians had more than half of their natural teeth remaining, and 37 percent had no teeth left.

Eighty-five percent of the centenarian offspring had more than half of their natural teeth, and 3 percent had no teeth left.

Among the control group, 77 percent reported still having more than half of their teeth.

The researchers discovered that 63 percent of the centenarian offspring had excellent or very good oral health, compared with 54 percent of the control group.

Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, Dr. Kaufman and team found that 46 percent of American adults born in the 1900 cohort had no teeth left around ages 65 to 74 years in 1971 to 1974 (this was also when the centenarian group was around the ages of 65 to 74). In comparison, only 37 percent of the centenarians in this study had no teeth left.

The findings revealed that the control group was 2.78 times more likely to not have any teeth left compared to the centenarian offspring.

In addition, the control group was 52 percent less likely to have all or more than half of their natural teeth and 33 percent less likely to report excellent or very good oral health compared to the centenarian offspring.

Lastly, better oral health was associated with lowered odds of having high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack or stroke.

The researchers concluded that centenarians and their offspring had better oral health than people born at the same time as each group.

One limitation of this study was that the study population could have been over-representative of centenarians with good oral and overall health. Also, all oral health data was based on self-report.

This study was published online on June 2 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Institute on Aging and the Glenn Medical Research Foundation provided funding.