Capitol Hill Event Advocates for Increased Access to Oral Healthcare for Older Adults

Posted on October 2, 2015

CHICAGOOct. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday Oral Health America (OHA) and Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, an initiative of the Dental Trade Alliance, brought together dozens of oral health leaders on Capitol Hill to address the challenges facing older Americans when it comes to accessing needed oral healthcare. The event, Aging in America: "You Can't Be Healthy Without Good Oral Health," featured Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, as keynote speaker and recognized Dr.David Satcher as the 2015 recipient of the Marvin Goldstein Outstanding Public Service Award for his dedicated leadership in improving public health in the United States. Dr. Satcher served as Surgeon General of the United States from 1998 to 2002, releasing the first ever US Surgeon General's report on oral health, Oral Health in America.

"I'm pleased to accept the Marvin Goldstein Outstanding Public Service Award. It is a special occasion for me and I express my deepest appreciation for this award," said David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D. founder of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute of theMorehouse School of Medicine. "The theme 'Aging in America: You Can't Be Healthy Without Good Oral Health' is a very important theme and…it is also a very special year. It is the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid and the Older Americans' Act, very important anniversary in the history of our country as it relates to health and healthcare."

The Capitol Hill event is part of OHA's annual Fall for Smiles campaign, which educates Americans every September and October about the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth through daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits, eating healthy foods and avoiding tobacco products. This year the campaign is focusing on older adults and the lack of resources and care available to them when it comes to oral health. According to a recent survey commissioned by OHA and conducted by Harris Poll, older adults already recognize the importance of oral health, with 58 percent saying they do not believe tooth loss is a natural part of aging and 92 percent agreeing that dental visits are still necessary even if you are missing some or all of your teeth. However, many are confused as to what Medicare covers when it comes to oral health, with 52 percent of older adults unsure about what Medicare covers or believing Medicare covers routine dental care. In addition, more than half of low-income older adults reported not having seen a dentist in over a year, with most citing money and lack of insurance as the reason for skipping a visit.

"The people having trouble chewing, experiencing pain, having trouble trying to afford their next meal. We're generally talking about those in the greatest social and economic need. Research tells us that poor dental health of course drives healthcare costs," said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. "We both have the same challenge; if we do not address these inextricably linked issues, so we both have a vested interest in working together to resolve this issue as best we can. Not only are we going to serve seniors that are turning to us to be their champions, but we're also going to have stronger and healthier communities and we're going to have a much more vibrant national as a whole."

Today OHA staff and board members are meeting with members of Congress to advocate for making oral health for older adults a priority. Specifically, they are asking members of Congress to pass the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015, restore funding for all programs within the Older Americans Act to pre-sequestration levels, support family caregivers through the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act and support workforce innovations that will increase access to care.

Fall for Smiles is generously sponsored by: 3M ESPE, DentaQuest Foundation, Denticator, Hu-Friedy, Listerine, Midmark, National Dental Association, Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, Patterson Dental, Sunstar, Trident and Whip Mix.

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