Dental Tribune USA

Program targets oral health of older adults

By Jennifer Gilbert, Oral Health America
April 17, 2014

CHICAGO, Ill., USA: Older adults — the most rapidly growing segment of the population in the United States — are facing a crisis when it comes to oral health. According to a 2013 Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Oral Health America, 23 percent of older adults have not seen a dental provider in five years, 70 percent do not have dental insurance, eight out of 10 uninsured seniors could not pay for a major dental procedure and 33 million live where dentists and clinics are scarce.

Oral Health America, a national nonprofit that aims to change lives by connecting communities with resources to increase access to care, education and advocacy for all Americans, is working to turn these statistics around through the Wisdom Tooth Project (WTP), a program that focuses entirely on older adults.

Website supports effort

This past fall, the WTP launched www.toothwisdom.org, a first-of-its-kind Web portal providing oral health information and local and national resources for older adults, caregivers and oral health professionals.

At the same time, the WTP released “A State of Decay,” a biennial publication that evaluates states on five leading indicators of adult oral health: adult Medicaid dental benefits, inclusion of older adult strategies in state oral health plans, edentulism, dental health professional shortage areas and community water fluoridation.

The report garnered local and national media attention when more than half of states failed to achieve a rating of 50.0 or greater. Regional symposia also unite diverse groups of health professionals and community leaders with the aim of inspiring strategic change to improve the oral health of older adults.

The WTP’s latest endeavor is Tooth Wisdom: Get Smart About Your Mouth. This health education program will empower older adults who are aging at home to improve their oral health through daily self-care and increase their knowledge about oral health.

Committee vets scientific accuracy

To ensure the program is scientifically accurate and accessible, an older adult advisory committee has been assembled, consisting of professionals who attended last year’s “Collaborative Health Care for Older Adults: A Symposium for Creating Inter-professional Community Models” and have a continued interest in geriatric oral health.

The committee meets regularly to discuss the education program and offer recommendations.

To learn more about Oral Health America and the WTP, you can visit www.oralhealthamerica.org and www.toothwisdom.org.

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