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Report on Oral Health Finds Many States Failing U.S. Seniors

Texas scores a 62.9% which is in the "fair" range. The oral care of seniors is very important, as poor oral health is an indicator or overall health. Read on to learn more about how the study was conducted, and click through to the report to see how other states fare. Thanks for visiting Texarkana Endodontics.

A new report details the shortcomings of many U.S. states in providing oral healthcare options for older Americans. Seventeen states received a "poor" rating by the report, an ominous sign for the baby boomer generation.

The report by Oral Health America (OHA), entitled "A State of Decay," blamed "limited access to dental insurance, affordable dental services, community water fluoridation, and programs that support oral health prevention and education," as the primary culprits in a complex web of issues hindering seniors' oral health. It suggested a number of solutions, including alternative workforce models, expanded Medicare and Medicaid coverage, and education for seniors and their caregivers.

A silver tsunami

Of particular concern to the report's authors is the "silver tsunami" of baby boomers who are turning 65 at a pace of 10,000 per day while only 2% have dental insurance. Furthermore, while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) addresses the oral health of children, it does not cover oral care for seniors.

The report examines state-level data on five variables impacting older adult oral health:

  • Adult Medicaid dental benefits
  • Inclusion in state oral health plans
  • Edentulism
  • Dental health professional shortage areas (HSPAs)
  • Community water fluoridation

The new report represents a focus shift from the report OHA issued in 2003, which evaluated Medicaid and private insurance reimbursements.

Seventeen states were assigned a "poor" rating for oral healthcare that was less than 50% of the best possible score. Two states, Minnesota and Maryland, were rated "excellent," with scores of 90% or better, while 10 states were rated "good," or between 70% and 89%, and 21 were rated "fair," with scores between 50% and 69% of the best possible score.

The scores were calculated using a formula that weighted each of the five factors. The indirect factors of water fluoridation and the percentage of need met in relation to the Health Resources and Services Administration's 2013 HSPA statistics were each weighed 1. The direct factors included the rates of edentulism, the current state-level oral health plan, and Medicaid dental coverage, and each received a weight of 1.2.

Key findings

Among the most significant issues that need to be addressed are a lack of oral healthcare coverage, a strained workforce, a lack of effective prevention programs, and high rates of edentulism, which suggest poor oral health in some areas.

"Forty-two percent of states (21 states) provide either no dental benefit or emergency coverage only through adult Medicaid dental benefits," the reported noted. The healthcare workers in place are often overburdened. The report found that 31 states have high rates of shortage of dental professionals, in which 40% or less of dental provider needs are met.

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Topics: Patient Interests, Oral Health