An assessment of associations between functional ability, nutrition, and dentition in homebound older adults

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University of Alabama Libraries

The relationship between nutrition, oral health, and functional ability has not been well investigated. The purpose of this research was to examine the associations between functional ability, dentition status, and the intake of specific dietary components in a group of homebound older adults. This cross-sectional study was a secondary analysis of data from a longitudinal study investigating causes of under eating in homebound older adults. Descriptive statistics, correlation and linear regression analyses were conducted. Participants' baseline physical function summary score, a proxy measure for functional ability, was the dependent variable. Mean dietary intakes of energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, and the mean oral health index summary score were the independent variables. Average age of the 230 participants was 79.1 ± 8.6 years. The study population was 79% female, 62% Caucasian, and 38% African American. Statistical analysis revealed that physical function was significantly (p < .05) correlated with participants' oral health score and vitamin K intake. The oral health score was a single number representing an assessment of multiple factors including chewing, swallowing, pain, dry mouth, denture use, and number of remaining natural teeth. A lower oral health summary score was indicative of better overall oral health. Therefore, the negative association between the physical function score and oral health score meant that as physical function improved oral health improved and vice versa. The oral health score and vitamin K intake were also the only variables to significantly predict physical function in the final linear regression. These results provide interesting insight into the impact of nutrition and dentition on homebound older adult functional ability and offer guidance for future research. This study highlights a need for additional research especially in the homebound segment of the older adult population to better understand the scope of their needs. There is also a need for consistency in defining, measuring, and researching older adult functional ability. Finally, future research must be carefully designed to provide useful results that address homebound older adult nutritional, dental, and functional needs, and their quality of life.

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Health Sciences, Nutrition, Health Sciences, Dentistry, Aging