Research has shown that poor oral health can have a negative impact on seniors’ overall health and well-being, but for many, there are significant barriers to visiting a dentist, finds a new report in the American Journal of Health Behavior.
Lead study author Theresa Montini, Ph.D., assistant medical professor at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York and her colleagues provided oral dental exams to 184 older adult volunteers. The average age of the study volunteers was 75 years old.
The researchers found that 89 percent of the participants, who frequented eight senior centers in New York City, needed some form of dental treatment with an average of two cavities per person. Six weeks following their initial dental exams, 52 percent had sought dental treatment but 48 percent had not been able to access dental services. Seniors who had not received follow-up treatment had significantly fewer teeth and were more likely to have been referred for new dentures or to repair old ones.
Three months after their initial dental exam, those who didn’t get subsequent dental care cited three primary barriers — 60 percent noted financial issues, 31 percent said transportation was a problem and 20 percent needed someone to help make the appointment and find a dentist.
The authors note that their findings have several implications for policymakers, such as considering adding dental benefits to Medicare coverage and/or expanding Medicaid dental coverage.