OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study was to quantify the relation between physical fitness and oral function, including tongue and lip movements. BACKGROUND: Physical fitness and oral function influence quality of life and activities of daily living in older individuals. Occlusal contact and mastication performance are associated with physical fitness, but the association between tongue and lip movements and physical fitness is unclear. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Sixty-six independent community-dwelling older individuals (24 men, 42 women; mean age, 70.3 ± 5.9 years) participated in this study. Measures of physical fitness were the one-leg standing time with eyes open, the functional reach test, anteflexion, the timed up and go test, and grip strength. Measures of oral function were tongue pressure, lip pressure, tongue movement from side to side, the repetitive saliva-swallowing test (RSST), oral diadochokinesis and masticatory efficiency. Multiple regression analysis was used to quantify the relation between physical fitness and oral function. RESULTS: After adjustment for age, sex, BMI, exercise habits and number of remaining teeth, the tongue movement from side to side and/or oral diadochokinesis were chosen as significant factors in each physical fitness measurement. Furthermore, the lip pressure and masticatory efficiency were associated with handgrip strength. CONCLUSION: Oral function, including tongue and lip movements, was associated with physical fitness in older people in this study. Tongue dexterity as characterised by tongue movement from side to side and oral diadochokinesis particularly associated with physical fitness.
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