No, we’re not talking about scenarios where you’re hanging by your teeth over a chasm of death or some heroic “man bites shark” story. Instead, we’re looking at the real relationship between a person’s ability to bite and chew, and their longevity. A new study shows that among the elderly, a stronger bite is associated with a lower risk of death, highlighting the importance of dentures.

older woman enjoying her family

Using Biting Force Instead of Chewing Ability

In this study, researchers really wanted to look at how well their elderly subjects (age 85 and over) were able to chew. But standard chewing effectiveness tests using sample foods like peanuts, chewing gum, or gummy jelly are just too dangerous for patients this age.

On the other hand, maximum occlusal force (MOF) can be safely tested without a risk of subjects choking. So they used that as an approximation for chewing ability.

Isolating Bite Force

Of course, researchers also acknowledged that bite force wasn’t exactly comparable across this population. Men tend to have stronger biting force overall than women, and those with natural teeth have stronger biting force than those with dentures. To account for these disparities, they divided their population up into four categories: men with teeth, men without teeth, women with teeth, and women without teeth.

Then then divided these categories into three according to their bite force: low, middle, and high.

They then followed these 489 patients for three years and recorded mortality data. They found that those with the strongest bite force had only ⅔ the risk of death as those in the lowest bite force category, after correcting for various potential confounders: gender, dental status, physical activity, psychological status, comorbidities, and inflammation.

In trying to account for muscle weakness, researchers also corrected for handgrip strength. The effect persisted, but was diminished.

How Chewing Keeps You Alive

Although you might not think about your dentures as being lifesavers, they really are. Many of the potential links between dentures and mortality were corrected for in this study. Quality dentures can help you keep more active. They also help you stay social, which can keep you sharp and give you more of a support network in case of health problems. Finally, better chewing ability is associated with a lower risk of dementia.

Authors of this article, however, mostly put the risk down to the inability to eat a varied diet. That is certainly an important consideration, and a very good reason why you should get good dentures–especially implant dentures–that let you eat a varied diet.

If you are looking for quality dentures, please contact a local FOY® Dentures dentist today for an appointment.