Poor Oral Health Care Among Seniors
As baby boomers are beginning to retire, access to affordable dental care becomes more difficult. According to San Diego County’s 2012 Survey of baby boomers, not being able to afford dental care was their greatest concern among eight health-related issues.
Dental clinics are seeing an incredible demand for dental procedures from seniors and the baby boomer generation; some of whom haven’t seen a dentist for decades because they either couldn’t afford it or couldn’t find a dentist who can see them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that only about 60 percent of seniors gave a visit to a dentist in 2016. Dental visits are even more scarce among low-income seniors and racial and ethnic minorities. Medicare, the largest health provider for seniors, does not cover routine dental care and dental coverage isn’t included for seniors under the Affordable Care Act either. Medicaid coverage of dental care varies by state, but the reimbursement dentists receive is so low that it is unsustainable for many dental practices to provide these critical services to seniors. The research by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows how dire our dental-care system has become. One in four children has untreated tooth decay — the most common chronic illness among school-aged children in today’s day and age.
Adults fare no better.
One in four Medicare beneficiaries are missing all of their natural teeth — a problem that threatens not only among the elderly but also the very poor. And because more than half of the oldest Boomers have already retired, they are more fiscally conservative and more concerned with functionality than aesthetics.