Background: The associations between the number of natural teeth/denture use and all-cause mortality remain unclear due to lake of investigation for the potential interaction between tooth loss and denture use and for the potential changes in these exposures over time in older adults. We undertake this study to evaluate the associations of the number of natural teeth and/or denture use with mortality in Chinese elderly. Methods: This is a prospective cohort study of 36,283 older adults (median age: 90). The number of natural teeth and denture use were collected with structured questionnaire. We evaluated hazard ratios (HRs) and confidence intervals (CIs) using a Cox proportional hazards model adjusting for demographic factors, education, income, lifestyle factors, and comorbidities. Results: We documented 25,857 deaths during 145,947 person-years of observation. Compared to those with 20+ teeth, tooth loss was associated with a gradual increase in mortality, with an adjusted HR of 1.14 (95% CI, 1.06 to 1.23) for those with 10-19 teeth, 1.23 (95% CI, 1.15 to 1.31) for those with 1-9 teeth, and 1.35 (95% CI, 1.26 to 1.44) for those without natural teeth. Denture use was associated with lower risk of mortality (adjusted HR 0.81; 95% CI, 0.77 to 0.84). Subgroup analyses indicated that the benefit of denture use was greater in men than in women (P = 0.02) and tended to decrease with age (P < 0.001). The effects of denture use did not differ among various degrees of tooth loss (P = 0.17). Conclusions: Tooth loss was associated with an increased risk of mortality in older adults. Denture use provided a protective effect against death for all degrees of tooth loss however, this effect appeared to be modified by sex and age.
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