Investigators: Jersey Liang
Funding (subcontract): National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 2013-2014 (5 R01 DE 019110 04)
Oral health is a critical but often overlooked component of health and well-being in older Americans. We have limited knowledge in changes of oral health at population level, and individual variation in changes of oral health in particular. In addition, our understanding of determinants of oral health, such as the role of cognitive function on oral health, is very limited. The proposed research aims to increase our understanding of the determinants of oral health among older adults and contribute to the improvement of their oral health. We propose to examine population trends of oral health, changes in oral health at the individual level, and the role of cognitive function on oral health among older Americans. We will conduct cross-sectional and longitudinal data analyses by using multiple data sets based on representative national and regional population based samples. This is a very cost effective method to achieve our research objectives. This study has the following specific aims: (1) Examine the population trend of oral health among community-dwelling older adults in the U.S. and to provide projections for oral health; (2) Examine the individual trajectory of changes in oral health (self-rated and clinical evaluation of oral health) among older adults; (3) Examine the relationship between cognitive function and oral health while controlling for socioeconomic status and other key covariates such as nutrition, inflammatory markers, and selected chronic conditions, namely diabetes and heart disease; and (4) Examine the reciprocal linkage between cognitive function and oral health among older adults by conducting longitudinal data analysis. We expect to provide a more thorough understanding of trends in racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in oral health, and determinants of oral health. In addition, we expect to better describe the relationships between cognitive function and oral health status, which would subsequently expand research efforts in the geriatric oral health field. The proposed research represents an important step toward our long term goal which is to identify oral health targets for intervention. We expect our study to lead to a better understanding of the underlying oral health deterioration related to cognitive impairment. And, in turn, our study may suggest strategies for effective and innovative practices to prevent oral health deterioration.