Older Americans Lack Access to Oral Health Checkups, Information

September 2, 2015
Jared Kaltwasser

A new survey finds older Americans, and low-income older Americans in particular, often forgo regular check-ups and receive little oral health information from other caregivers.

A new survey finds older Americans, and low-income older Americans in particular, often forgo regular check-ups and receive little oral health information from other caregivers.

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Oral Health America, found more than half of low-income seniors haven’t seen a dentist in the past year. The reason? Usually, it came down to a lack of dental insurance or money.

Meanwhile, primary care physicians and other providers often ignore oral health concerns. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents said their doctor “rarely or never” talks to them about how medications might affect their oral health. Two-thirds (66%) said the same about their pharmacist.

“Older Americans deserve to have the resources they need to maintain a healthy mouth as they age,” said Beth Truett, the president and CEO of OHA. “Mouth health impacts overall health, especially for older adults, and those with poor oral health face increased obstacles of keeping their teeth, avoiding gum disease, and staying active and independent.”

OHA is in the midst of launching its annual “Fall for Smiles” public awareness campaign, which stresses the importance of brushing, flossing, regular dental visits, avoiding smoking, and other oral health issues.

This year’s Fall for Smiles is focused on older Americans. The organization will unveil a new study on the topic later this year.

An earlier OHA report found only 2% of Baby Boomers have access to dental insurance through their former employers when they retire. Nearly 70% of older Americans don’t have dental insurance, a fact that greatly reduces the likelihood they’ll seek regular dental care.

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