Dental woes can lead to issues for seniors

//Dental woes can lead to issues for seniors

Dental woes can lead to issues for seniors

According to the American Dental Association, one-fifth of people age 75 or older haven’t seen a dentist in the past five years.

Many older patients are resistant because of fear or years of neglect — or they have impaired cognitive skills and don’t understand the need. Others are not mobile enough to get to a dental office.

“There are layers upon layers that can make it very difficult,” said Susan Hyde, division chairwoman of oral epidemiology and dental public health at the University of California-San Francisco School of Dentistry.

Older patients also might have arthritis or a history of strokes. “They can’t take care of their own teeth and are prone to tooth decay and subject to pain,” Hyde said.

Even for patients eager for care, paying for it can be a challenge.

Medicare, which covers medical care for people 65 or older, doesn’t include routine dental care, and many seniors lose coverage through other insurance plans when they retire. Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income Americans, doesn’t require states to provide dental care to adults.

Nursing homes are required to do a dental screening and help residents with oral hygiene, but dentists say that doesn’t always happen.

“You have people who have maintained their oral health their entire lives, only to see it go down the tubes in six to eight months,” said Judith Jones, a professor at Boston University’s dental school and elder-care spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

Poor oral hygiene and care can lead to infection, the inability to eat and a loss of dignity, Jones said. And the bacteria that cause gum disease can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, aneurysms and other health problems, research shows.

Efforts are underway to ensure that all elderly patients get access to high-quality dental care, though dentists say it won’t be easy. The Senate has proposed including oral health screenings in its reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which helps pay for nutrition and social services for low-income seniors.

And two bills were introduced in Congress in the spring that would expand coverage to adults without dental insurance.

By Anna Gorman Kaiser Health News


By | 2018-06-20T20:45:34+00:00 June 20th, 2018|Blog|0 Comments

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