Background: Although social participation is a key determinant of health among older adults, few studies have focused on the association between social participation and dental health. This study examined the associations between social participation and dental health status in community-dwelling older Japanese adults.
Methods and findings: In 2010, self-administered postal questionnaires were distributed to all people aged ≥ 65 years in Iwanuma City, Japan (response rate, 59.0%). Data from 3,517 respondents were analyzed. Data on the number of remaining natural teeth, for determining the dental health status, and social participation were obtained using self-administered questionnaires. The number, type, and frequency of social activities were used to assess social participation. Social activities were political organizations or associations, industrial or professional groups, volunteer groups, senior citizens' clubs, religious groups or associations, sports groups, neighborhood community associations, and hobby clubs. Using ordinal logistic regression, we calculated the odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for an increase in category of remaining teeth based on the number, type, and frequency of social activities. Sex, age, marital status, current medical history, activity of daily living, educational attainment, and annual equivalent income were used as covariates. Of the respondents, 34.2% reported having ≥ 20 teeth; 27.1%, 10-19 teeth; 26.3%, 1-9 teeth; and 12.4%, edentulousness. Social participation appeared to be related with an increased likelihood of having a greater number of teeth in old age, even after adjusting for covariates (OR = 1.30, 95% CI = 1.10-1.53). Participation in sports groups, neighborhood community associations, or hobby clubs was significantly associated with having more teeth.
Conclusions: Our results suggest a protective effect of social participation on dental health. In particular, participation in sports groups, neighborhood community associations, or hobby clubs might be a strong predictor for retaining more teeth in later life.