SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new report by the Center for Oral Health (COH) found that a significant number of older Californians are plagued by oral health problems despite the fact that dental disease is largely preventable. The study, “A Healthy Smile Never Gets Old: A California Report on the Oral Health of Older Adults,” found that, overall, one in three older adults need treatment for a decayed tooth, and untreated tooth decay is leading to a high prevalence of tooth loss.
“Research clearly demonstrates that properly addressing dental problems prevents various medical complications and reduces overall healthcare spending,” noted Dr. Sahiti Bhaskara, Director of Public Policy Research, Center for Oral Health. “However, in contrast to the growing awareness about children’s oral health needs, the oral health of older adults has received relatively little attention and few public health or policy interventions. This report is designed to shed light on older adults’ oral health and what can be done to improve health outcomes.”
Key findings include:
- Half the older adults residing in skilled nursing homes have untreated tooth decay
- One in three older adults in skilled nursing homes have lost all their teeth
- Sixty-five percent (65%) of older adults in nursing homes and 46% of community-dwelling older adults need treatment for tooth decay or gum disease
- Nearly 40% of skilled nursing home residents cannot chew due to poor contact between teeth
- Older adults in rural areas are 10% more likely to have untreated tooth decay than their urban counterparts
The report outlined recommendations to eliminate barriers to care and improve oral health. These include steps to break down health care silos, prioritize access to care and preventive services in Medi-Cal, expand use of innovative practices, and pursue education programs and outreach.
Data for this report was collected through oral health screenings of 2,372 older adults in California – conducted at 36 skilled nursing homes and 51 community sites that included congregate meal sites, adult day care centers and senior centers.
The Center for Oral Health is a California non-profit dedicated to improving oral health, especially of vulnerable populations, through innovation, research, education and advocacy. This project was funded in part by Archstone Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, Delta Dental Health Education and Research Fund, and Liberty Dental Plan Foundation.