Malnutrition is a major problem faced by elderly people whose bite force is reduced by 75% in the first 5 years of wearing dentures and a shocking 97% after 15 years.
Dentures put wearers at risk of malnutrition because they cause wearers to avoid healthy foods which are difficult to chew, a major study has shown.
Researchers at King's College London found the same was true for people with tooth loss, who also struggle to chew food properly.
In both cases, tooth loss and wearing dentures was associated with joint and muscle frailty, which can leave people at risk of bone breakages and falls.
The scientists said that people with dentures, or fewer teeth find it difficult to eat foods such as fibrous fruits and vegetables, nuts, and meat, which are essential for good nutrition.
Although dentures improve chewing function, the bite force is much weaker than that of natural teeth, meaning users often avoid certain foods.
"Persons of inadequate dentition are less likely to eat hard food that is difficult to chew, for example, some of the fresh fruits and vegetables, apples, pears, carrots, nuts, etc," said Dr. Wael Sabbah, from King's College London Dental Institute.
"They could also have difficulties in eating some cooked food such as meat, depending on the way it is cooked."
The study examined the health of more than 1.800 people who had an average age of 62, and were categorized into three groups; having at least 20 teeth, denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth, and people and non-denture wearers with fewer than 20 teeth.
Researchers tested all groups for strength, frailty, BMI, and oral health, and were interviewed about their nutritional intake.
The group that had less than 20 teeth and did not use dentures, and those who used dentures, were found to have consumed the least amount of nutrients, compared to recommended daily amounts. They were also found to be more frail.
Denture wearers and those with fewer teeth were 32% more likely to be frail, and 20% more likely to be nutritionally deficient.
The researchers say the study demonstrates how important oral health is in preventing tooth loss which can cause nutritional deficiencies in later life.
Nutrients are crucial to maintain muscle mass and stave off musculoskeletal frailty.
"Few studies have examined the relationship between oral health, the number of teeth, and general frailty," added Dr. Sabbah.
"One of the important findings of the study is the significant relationship between the condition of teeth and deficiency in intake of essential nutrients, regardless of the use of dentures.
"To date, the majority of efforts to improve frailty have focused on nutrition strategies, including health education, while the influence of teeth on dietary restraint of the elderly has been neglected.
"The findings of this analysis. along with that reported in earlier research, suggest that the use of dentures could be a neglected intervention that could potentially have a preventative impact on musculoskeletal frailty.
"The results also highlight the importance of developing oral health policies to ensure older adults maintain functional dentition throughout their life."
The research was published in the journal Geriatrics & Gerontology International.