Dental caries in older adults in the last year of life

Xi Chen, Jennifer J. Clark, John S. Preisser, Supawadee Naorungroj, Stephen K. Shuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives To examine dental caries severity (measured by number of carious teeth) in older adults in the last year of life. Design Cross-sectional study based on dental records. Setting Community-based geriatric dental clinic. Participants One thousand two hundred sixteen individuals aged 65 and older, including 168 individuals in the last year of life (e.g., individuals died within 1 year after their new-patient examinations). Measurements Information on socioeconomic, medical history, medication, functional status, and oral health measures, including number of carious teeth, was abstracted from dental records. End-of-life status was determined using the National Death Index. Propensities of death were calculated using a logistic regression and then adjusted together with mobility and oral care function in the multivariable regression model to examine the effect of end-of-life status on dental caries. Results Caries severity differed in end-of-life participants with different oral care function. Of those needing help with oral care, end-of-life participants had only a slightly higher and nonstatistically significant risk (7.5 vs 6.1, adjusted incidence density ratio (IDR) = 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.85-1.48) of having more carious teeth than those not in the last year of life. On the other hand, caries severity was lower in end-of-life participants without impaired oral care function (IDR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.30-0.92). Conclusion Oral care function modifies the association between caries severity and end-of-life status. Individuals who could maintain oral hygiene independently had a low level of caries at the end of life, however, dental caries had increased before functionally dependent individuals entered their last year of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1345-1350
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • dental caries
  • end of life
  • older adults


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