Dental Tribune America

Studies focus on oral health of older Chinese Americans

By Dental Tribune International
October 01, 2019

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., U.S.: The important role that good oral health plays in helping to sustain good general mental and physical health has been well documented. In two new studies from Rutgers University, scientists have focused their attention on older Chinese Americans, looking specifically at the relationship between poor oral health and cognitive decline, as well as the effects of perceived stress and lack of social support on dry mouth.

More than 2,700 Chinese Americans aged 60 and older were interviewed and the results were reflected in two studies. In the first study, the team focused their attention on the 50% of participants who had reported having tooth and or gingival issues. In the second study, the researchers investigated the 25% of participants who had reported suffering from dry mouth.

“Racial and ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of poor oral health,” said Prof. XinQi Dong, Director of Rutgers University’s Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. “Minorities have less access to preventive dental care that is further exacerbated by language barriers and low socio-economic status. Older Chinese Americans are at particular risk for experiencing oral health symptoms due to lack of dental insurance or not visiting a dental clinic regularly.”

According to the published results, those who reported tooth symptoms experienced a decline in cognition and episodic memory, something the researchers noted as often being precursors to dementia. Those who reported suffering from dry mouth said stress increased the symptoms. These symptoms then led to poorer oral health.

Noting that poor oral health is a top concern among older Chinese Americans and that the prevalence rate of dry mouth is followed by diabetes and heart disease, Dong said, “These studies demonstrate the importance of examining immigrant oral health outcomes later in life to understand the specific type of outcomes of different cultural groups. The studies further serve as a call to action for policymakers to develop programs aimed at improving oral health preventative and dental care services in this high-risk population.”

The studies, titled “Oral health symptoms and cognitive function among US community‐dwelling Chinese older adults” and “Perceived stress, social support, and dry mouth among US older Chinese adults,” were published on Aug. 12, 2019, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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