Associations between Dentition Status and Nutritional Status in Community-Dwelling Older Adults

S. Honeywell, H. Samavat, R. Touger-Decker, J. S. Parrott, E. Hoskin, R. Zelig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Objective: Older adults are at higher risk of malnutrition. The aim of this study was to explore associations between nutritional status and dentition status among older adults seeking care in a dental clinic. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of data from older adults (65–89 y) who received care at a northeastern US urban dental school clinic between June 2015 and June 2020 (N = 305). Clinical and demographic data were obtained from the electronic health record; nutritional status was determined using the Self–Mini Nutritional Assessment (Self-MNA), and odontograms and digital radiography were used to determine dental data. Adjusted multivariable models were used to explore associations between variables. Results: The sample was 53.8% female with a median age of 72.0 y. The median Self-MNA score was 13, reflective of normal nutritional status; 29.5% were at risk of or had malnutrition. Median numbers of teeth and posterior and anterior occluding pairs of teeth (POP, AOP) were 18.0, 2.0, and 5.0, respectively. Those with normal nutritional status had significantly more teeth, POPs, and AOPs than those at risk of or with malnutrition (P = 0.015, P = 0.015, and P = 0.039, respectively). Every additional unit increase in the number of natural or restored teeth or POP was associated with significantly lower odds of being at risk of or with malnutrition (3% and 13%, respectively). Having functional dentition was associated with 46% lower odds of being at risk of or with malnutrition. Conclusion: This study demonstrated that older adults who had more teeth, better occlusion, and functional dentition were more likely to be of normal nutritional status than those who had less teeth, had poorer occlusion, and lacked functional dentition. Further research with larger, more diverse samples and varied measures of dentition are needed to better understand the associations between nutritional status and dentition status. Knowledge Transfer Statement: The findings from this study suggest that older adults with fewer teeth and therefore less efficient occlusion are at higher risk for malnutrition than those with more teeth and better occlusion. Health care professionals should include screening for dentition and malnutrition as part of their routine practice to identify patients who may have tooth loss and be at risk of malnutrition and refer them accordingly for interventions to optimize oral health and nutritional status.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalJDR Clinical and Translational Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


  • dental occlusion
  • epidemiology
  • geriatrics
  • malnutrition
  • oral health
  • tooth loss


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