“Across the range of ages, dental care and coverage vary, and cost plays a major role,” explains Preeti Malani, MD, director of the survey and professor of internal medicine at UM with special training in the care of the elderly. “We know that poor oral health can affect everything from social interactions to eligibility for surgery, so it’s important for healthcare professionals as well as policy makers to understand what older people are going through.”
One in four adults over 65 surveyed (27%) said they were embarrassed by the condition of their teeth, and about the same percentage rated their overall dental health as fair or poor.
The role of dental care costs
One in three had not been to the dentist for preventive care such as cleaning for at least a year. When the research team compared this with household income, they found that people with income over $ 60,000 were almost twice as likely as those with income below $ 30,000 to have visited. the dentist in the past year.
Almost half of those surveyed (46%) said they were missing teeth but did not have a prosthesis or implant to fill the void.
“Coverage for dental care, as well as vision and hearing care, is essential to the long-term health of our population,” says Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for the AARP. “Even simple teeth cleanings may not be affordable for seniors living on a fixed income, so having dental coverage can help solve this problem. “
The survey also sheds additional light on the growing body of evidence linking oral health to general health and well-being. Those who said their overall physical or mental health was fair or poor also visited the dentist’s office less often and were more likely to say their oral health was poor. Dry mouth issues from medication use and challenges with healthy eating from untreated dental issues could make these issues worse, Malani says.
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The results of the National Survey on Healthy Aging are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,039 adults aged 65 to 80 who answered a wide range of online questions. The questions were written and the data interpreted and compiled by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to those interviewed who did not already have them.
A full report of the results and methodology is available at www.healthyagingpoll.org, as well as previous reports from the National Survey on Healthy Aging.
NOTE: The NPHA team recognizes the unprecedented challenges associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially for the elderly and their families. The team is working remotely and remains committed to continuing to share survey results based on the perspectives and experiences of American adults between the ages of 50 and 80.