A study from Connecticut points out the urgent dental health dangers facing seniors in long-term care facilities. Though the findings are specific to their state, they are likely mirrored across the country, including here in South Carolina, and they represent an important warning of issues that we must resolve if we want to ensure the health of our loved ones, and ourselves as we continue to age.
Dental Health Care Failing Seniors
The survey looked at seniors living in 8 long-term care facilities and those who obtained meals from 15 congregate meal sites. They found that many seniors needed care they weren’t getting. In the long-term care facilities, 42% needed dental care, and 4% of them needed urgent care because they were experiencing dental pain or had an infection. The congregate meal site population was slightly better, with only 29% needing dental care, and only 3% needing urgent dental care.
The survey also found that many of the seniors had no teeth, and they were often lacking dentures. This was worse in the long-term care facility population: 37% of long-term care residents had no teeth, and a full 30% of those with no teeth were lacking one or both dentures! Although 19% of the meal site population were also lacking their teeth, 90% of them had their dentures.
Many long-term care residents had untreated tooth decay: 53% of them, about 2.5 times the rate of untreated tooth decay in the senior population nationally.
Additionally, about 60% of seniors surveyed at meal sites lacked dental insurance, which created a significant barrier preventing them from getting dental care.
How to Improve Dental Care for Seniors
One of the biggest impacts we could make for seniors’ dental health would be to expand Medicare to cover dental health, which it currently does not. This hole in Medicare coverage not only hurts seniors, it increases all our costs because it means that many vulnerable seniors do not get the preventive care they need and instead are only being treated when they experience an emergency.
In addition, you can help your loved one maintain their oral health by making sure they are either capable of doing it themselves or have someone who will help them. Make sure they have their dentures, make sure these dentures fit properly, and make sure they are wearing their dentures on a daily basis. Make sure proper denture maintenance is being conducted.
Be aware of your loved one’s dental appointments. Make sure they get to the dentist every six months and get proper care.
If your loved one is lacking dentures, we can help them get quality dentures that will improve their quality of life. To learn more, please contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today.