Study finds widespread oral health problems among older adults

Oral Health America launches new informational website

CHICAGO – More than half of the country gets a "fair" or "poor" score when it comes to standards affecting dental care access for elderly people, according to a new report.

The report, A State of Decay, released Tuesday by Oral Health America, gives a state-by-state analysis of oral healthcare delivery and public health factors affecting the oral health of older adults. The results have prompted OHA to launch a new website to connect older adults to dental care and educate them about maintaining oral health.

"While we are seeing improvements in certain areas of older adult dental care, there is still a lack of progress in advancing the oral health of such a vulnerable population," Columbia University public health professor Ira Lamster said. "Older adults face significant health challenges if their oral health is poor, and there is no coordinated program to help fund necessary services."

According to the study, 21 states provide either no dental benefits or only emergency coverage through adult Medicaid programs, while 31 have high numbers of dental health provider shortage areas. Meanwhile, 13 states have up to 60% of residents living in communities without water fluoridation, despite fluoride's ability to protect dental health; Hawaii and New Jersey have the highest rates of residents without water fluoridation, respectively at 89.2% and 86.5%. Eight states have "strikingly" high rates of tooth loss, with 33.8% of the adult population of West Virginia having this problem.


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