Generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass (SMM) may modulate or otherwise affect the loss of masseter muscle mass and be responsible for low masseter muscle performance and strength (i.e., low oral function). Moreover, dentition status can affect oral function independent of the muscle state. This cross-sectional study aimed to simultaneously investigate the relationships among whole-body SMM, masseter muscle mass, oral function (masseter muscle performance and strength), and dentition status in 1349 Japanese adults (mean age = 73.6 years).
We determined the estimated masseter muscle mass (e-MMM) based on morphological measurements of the masseter muscle. Masseter muscle performance was assessed via masticatory performance evaluation scores using gum, and strength was assessed as the maximal occlusal force. Dentition status was assessed as the number of functional teeth. SMM was measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis. Structural equation modeling stratified by sex was employed to investigate associations among SMM, e-MMM, gum score, occlusal force, and number of functional teeth.
The direct path from SMM to e-MMM was statistically significant, as was the direct path from e-MMM to oral function (gum score and maximum occlusal force) for both sexes. We additionally confirmed that SMM indirectly affected gum score and maximum occlusal force via e-MMM (men; standardized coefficient [95% CI] = 3.64 [1.31 to 5.96] for maximum occlusal force and 0.01 [0.01 to 0.02] for gum score, women; 2.01 [0.38 to 3.81] for maximum occlusal force and 0.01 [0.002 to 0.01] for gum score). The number of functional teeth had direct effects on e-MMM, gum score, and maximum occlusal force.
Low SMM was significantly indirectly associated with poor oral function through a low masseter muscle mass, and dentition status was independently associated with oral function.

© 2021. The Author(s).