CHICAGO -- Ten thousand adults reach retirement age in the United States every day, but only two percent retain dental benefits. As older adults continue to age, other health problems complicate oral care, exacerbating already existing oral health issues, stretching already small budgets, and often making just getting to a dentist difficult. For those who end up in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, regular dental care is even harder to come by, with few facilities in the country prioritizing oral health for their residents.
Results from a new public opinion survey commissioned by Oral Health America (OHA) and sponsored by Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, 3M ESPE, and Crest + OralB give further evidence to what is becoming a crisis for America's older adult population. According to the survey, almost half of older adults with a household income of $35,000 or less have not been to the dentist in the past two years. In addition, 35 percent of low-income older adults have gone four years or more between dental visits. These troubling statistics are why OHA is focusing on older adults during its fourth annual Fall for Smiles® campaign, which encourages all Americans to maintain good oral health by brushing and flossing, regular dental visits, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco.“
Extensive research has shown us that oral health is inextricably tied to overall health, making it even more important for older adults to maintain a healthy mouth," said OHA President and CEO Beth Truett. "With this year's Fall for Smiles campaign, we hope to highlight the emerging crisis caused by lack of dental care for seniors and start a movement that changes the perception that your oral health naturally fails as you age."
According to the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, over half of those who do not visit the dentist on a regular basis cite financial reasons or a lack of dental insurance.
We cannot continue to let economics determine the oral health of our aging population. The time has come to educate Americans about the importance of oral health and encourage lawmakers to support oral health initiatives.
"The oral health of the nation's older adults has been ignored for too long, and we are proud to support OHA's quest to bring attention to this important issue through the
Fall for Smiles campaign," said R. Ivan Lugo, DMD, MBA, Oral Care Professional and Scientific Relations, Regional Manager for North America and Puerto Rico, Procter & Gamble. "Through its relationships with dental associations and manufacturers across the country and the great work of Fall for Smiles, OHA is truly living their mission of connecting communities with resources."
The Fall for Smiles webpage, www.oralhealthamerica.org/fallforsmiles, features many resources and materials Americans of all ages and economic backgrounds can use to participate in the campaign and help spread the message of the importance of oral health. These materials include oral health tip sheets for kids and older adults, template press releases, web buttons, suggested social media language, and activities for families. Fall for Smiles is generously sponsored by: 3M ESPE, the American Association of Dental Office Mangers, Atlantic Precious Metal Refining, Crest + OralB, DentaQuest, Denticator, the Hispanic Dental Association, Hu-Friedy, Midmark, the National Dental Association, Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, OSAP-Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention, Patterson Dental, and Trident.