By 2060, according to the US Census, the number of US adults aged 65 years or older is expected to reach 98 million, 24% of the overall population. Older Americans with the poorest oral health tend to be those who are economically disadvantaged, lack insurance, and are members of racial and ethnic minorities.
Many older Americans do not have dental insurance because they lost their benefits upon retirement and the federal Medicare program does not cover routine dental care.
Oral health problems in older adults include the following:
- Almost all adults aged 65 years or older have had a cavity and 1 in 5 have untreated tooth decay.
- A high percentage of older adults have gum disease. About 2 in 3 adults have gum disease.
- 1 in 5 of adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Having missing teeth or wearing dentures can affect nutrition, because people without teeth or with dentures often prefer soft, easily chewed foods instead of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Cancers of the mouth are primarily diagnosed in older adults, the median age at diagnosis is 62 years.
- People with chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more likely to develop gum disease, but they are less likely to get dental care than adults without these chronic conditions.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)