There have increasingly been studies showing the relationship between dental health and overall health. For example, associations between periodontitis and diabetes have emerged in recent years, as well as oral conditions such as xerostomia associated with the use of prescription drugs.
Oral Health America has issued a report entitled State of Decay: Are Older Americans Coming of Age Without Oral Healthcare? It shows that only 2 percent of baby boomers turning age 65 will have access to dental insurance benefits.
There is persistent lack of oral health coverage across much of the nation. Forty-two percent of states (21 states) provide either no dental benefit or emergency coverage only through adult Medicaid Dental Benefits. Thirty-one states (62 percent) have high rates of Dental Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs), meeting only 40 percent or less of dental provider needs.
This is shocking but thirteen states (26 percent) have 60 percent or more residents living in communities without water fluoridation (CWF). Hawaii (89.2 percent) and New Jersey (86.5 percent) represent the highest rates of citizens unprotected by fluoridation.
The current workforce is aging, and many dental professionals will retire within the next decade. åÊA lack of geriatric specialty programs complicates this problem, and few practitioners are choosing geriatrics as their field of choice. Emergency room visits that were dental related among adults over 65 rose from 1 million from 1999-2000 to 2.3 million during 2009-2010.
Access to dental care is one of the greatest challenges facing older adults and their caregivers.
Access to dental coverage for older adults is limited. It was not addressed in the Affordable Care Act.
Dental insurance coverage is a primary indicator of whether or not an individual visits the dentist.
Close to 70 percent of older Americans do not have dental insurance.
In addition to increasing access to care, providers, payers, dental program administrators now must demonstrate improved quality of care, improved health outcomes, and lowered costs.
1.Create Payment Options for Older Adult Dental Care
2.Mitigate Dental Provider Shortages by Improving the Primary Healthcare Workforce
3.Expand Water Fluoridation to all Communities at CDC-recommended levels
4. Include Robust Strategies to Improve Older Adult Oral Healthcare in State Plans
5. Educate Older Adults, Care Advisors and Caring Institutions to Improve the Mouth Health of Older Adults
Oral Health America has created a web portal, www.toothwisdom.org, a user-friendly online tool that connects older adults and their caregivers with local resources. This website offers reliable oral care information from oral health experts across the country, so readers can learn why itÛªs so important to care for their mouths as they age. This is one of those other elephants in the room of Obamacare. Long-term care financing of course is the other. We are learning more and more about the health impact of poor oral health so pay attention to this. Plan for care and more importantly make that appointment even if you have to pay out of pocket. Your health is at-risk.