Institute for Oral Health Senior couple



2008: Oral Health in Aging America

Our nation is facing unprecedented growth in the senior population, owing to longer lifespans and aging baby boomers. The elderly often neglect their oral health due to lack of access or adequate insurance, and there are far too few providers well trained in geriatric care. As such, the dental and medical professions may be facing a looming health care crisis.

In 2008, the Institute for Oral Health addressed "aging America" with focus groups and our annual national conference (Chicago, IL), which featured the nation's top authorities on aging and geriatric oral health. The conference discussed key issues and progressive solutions for dental care access and treatment for older adults:

  • Changes in America's aging population
  • How to slow and even reverse the aging process
  • Challenges of treating older adults
  • Workforce shortages in geriatric oral health care
  • Managing oral and systemic health together
  • Innovative, team-based models for care delivery
  • Improving access with new insurance models
  • Making dental care integral to health care reform

Calls to Action

  • Raising Awareness — We need more progressive efforts to promote oral health education and prevention, such as social marketing campaigns and partnering with organizations like the AARP, which reaches a broad and diverse audience.
  • Getting Insurance Companies on Board — Dental professionals need to educate policymakers on oral health as a risk factor in systemic health, and do so in terms of economics. By emphasizing the quantifiable value of dental care, we have a better chance of having it built into mainstream health care plans.
  • Advancing Oral Health Care with a Broader Perspective — To really improve oral health for all Americans, we need to start advocating outside the dental care system, looking at new ways to collaborate with stakeholders beyond the dental office who can complement our efforts and even make our work more efficient and cost-effective.