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Keywords:

  • dietary behaviors;
  • minority health;
  • oral health

OBJECTIVES: To quantify the association between food avoidance and modification due to oral health problems, to examine the association between food practices and dietary quality, and to determine foods associated with these self-management behaviors.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: Rural North Carolina.

PARTICIPANTS: Six hundred thirty-five community-dwelling adults aged 60 and older.

MEASUREMENTS: Demographic and food frequency data and oral health assessments were obtained during home visits. Avoidance (0, 1–2 foods, 3–14 foods) and modification (0–3 foods, 4–5 foods) due to oral health problems were assessed for foods representing oral health challenges. Food frequency data were converted into Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005) scores. Linear regression models tested the significance of associations between HEI-2005 measures and food avoidance and modification.

RESULTS: Thirty-five percent of participants avoided three to 14 foods, and 28% modified four to five foods. After adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, poverty, education, and tooth loss, total HEI-2005 score was lower (P<.001) for persons avoiding more foods and higher for persons modifying more foods (P<.001). Those avoiding three to 14 foods consumed more saturated fat and energy from solid fat and added sugar and less nonhydrogenated fat than those avoiding fewer than three foods. Those who modified four to five foods consumed less saturated fat and solid fat and added sugar but more total grains than those modifying fewer than four foods.

CONCLUSION: Food avoidance and modification due to oral health problems are associated with significant differences in dietary quality. Approaches to minimize food avoidance and promote food modification by persons having eating difficulties due to oral health conditions are needed.