That bites: Study finds wearing dentures could lead to malnutrition

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Dentures, or prosthetic replacement teeth, have simplified life and eating for countless dental patients. However, new dental research warns that even the best dentures can’t provide the same “chewing efficiency” as real teeth. Consequently, scientists from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Dentistry report wearing dentures may lead to dietary and nutritional changes.

Study authors used both electronic dental and health records to analyze how various oral health treatments influence dental patients’ overall health over time. The team believes this project is the first ever to take lab values of nutritional biomarkers and link them up with dental records.

Dentures are a significant change for a person. They do not provide the same chewing efficiency, which may alter eating habits,” says senior study author Thankam Thyvalikakath, DMD, MDS, PhD, director of the Regenstrief and IU School of Dentistry Dental Informatics program, in a media release. “Dentists need to be aware of this and provide advice or a referral for nutrition counseling. These patients need support during the transition and possible continued monitoring.”

Denture wearers may face more challenges over time

Researchers analyzed the dental records of over 10,000 patients from Indiana for this project. More specifically, they matched the dental records with medical laboratory data and various signs of malnutrition. Lab tests included in the research featured basic metabolic profile and lipid and thyroid panel tests, complete blood count, and numerous others. For each individual, researchers focused on lab results from two years before, and two years after getting dentures.

Sure enough, that analysis revealed people with dentures showed a significant decline across certain nutrition markers over the two-year period. Meanwhile, those without dentures didn’t experience any decline at all. While the denture wearers could still be classified as “normal” on the malnutrition scale according to researchers, they warn it’s possible that nutritional levels will continue to fall as more time passes. This is a trend that dentists need to be aware of, so they can address the issue with patients considering dentures.

Moving forward, researchers want to analyze and study various additional dental elements that may influence nutrition, such as insurance status or dental clinic characteristics.

The study is published in the Journal of Prosthodontics.

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John Anderer

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