A new study has found that poor oral health could have a significant impact on the overall health and well-being of seniors, but many seniors encounter obstacles that make receiving dental care difficult, according to researchers at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at the City College of New York.
The study was recently published in the American Journal of Health Behavior.
As part of their study, researchers conducted oral examinations on 184 senior adult participants. The average age of those involved in the study was 75.
Researchers discovered that 89 percent of study participants, who regularly visited one of eight senior centers located throughout New York City, needed some type of dental treatment and that participants averaged two cavities each. Six weeks after their initial exams, 52 percent of the participants had sought out dental care but 48 percent were unable to receive the care they required. Seniors who were unable to receive follow-up care had significantly fewer remaining teeth and were more likely to have received a referral for new dentures or to repair old ones.
Three months following their initial exams, participants who didn’t receive subsequent dental care cited three main obstacles – 60 percent stated financial issues, 31 percent reported transportation as the issue and 20 percent said they needed someone to help them find a dentist and schedule an appointment.
Researchers noted that their findings have a number of implications for policymakers, such as the need to consider adding dental benefits to Medicare coverage and/or expanding the dental coverage offered by Medicaid.
Throwing their support behind the study’s finding, the National Association of Medicaid Direction agreed with researchers, stating that the study clearly showed the dental care needs of senior Americans would be benefited by access to more affordable and reliable dental care.
The organization was dismayed by the barrier to dental care highlighted by the study, which seemed to stem mostly from a lack of dental care benefits from Medicare. Since not all seniors have access to Medicaid, and even those who do aren’t always eligible for the same benefits. The NAMD said many of the problems surrounding senior dental care could be alleviated if Medicare provided basic dental benefits.
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