Why Oral Health?

Why should organizations integrate oral health into their programs and services? Here are a few key reasons:

It’s a growing population.

  • Life expectancy is shifting the nation’s demographic profile; about 12 percent of the population was 65 years or older in 2000 but is expected to increase to 20 percent by 2040 (US Administration on Aging).
  • The 85 and older population is projected to nearly triple from 5.7 million in 2011 to 14.1 million in 2040 (US Administration on Aging).

More seniors are aging with their natural teeth.

  • In 2012, as many as 82% of adults 65 and older still had the majority of their teeth (Arcora Foundation Oral Health Survey).
  • With more seniors retaining their natural teeth, the prevalence of oral diseases increases – creating a dental access challenge, especially for low-income seniors.

Without oral health care and treatment, older adults are at risk for tooth loss, gum disease, denture problems, xerostomia (dry mouth), and oral cancer, as well as poor nutrition and chronic illnesses. Declining oral health has been linked to:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Pneumonia
  • Cardiovascular disease

Seniors lack access to dental care.

  • Most retirees no longer have dental insurance.
  • Medicare doesn’t include dental coverage.
  • Medicaid includes adult dental care coverage but finding a dental provider can be difficult.
  • Eight percent of Washington’s older adults live at or below the federal poverty level. Paying for dental care out of pocket versus paying for medications may not be realistic.

To learn more about oral health and seniors, and the connection between oral health and overall health, refer to the General Oral Health > Resources page.

Remember, the mouth is part of the body. Oral health is critical to overall health!