In 2017, only 34.3% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 had dental insurance, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). This percentage dropped to 22.3% among those aged 75 to 84 and to 19.9% among those 85 and older. This lack of insurance may be impacting the oral health of these seniors.
“Dental care is often an overlooked aspect of overall healthcare among older adults. Regular dental care is recommended for all older adults, even those with full dentures,” said Ellen A. Kramarow, PhD, author of the data brief. “Because Medicare does not cover routine dental care, older adults may have trouble accessing appropriate dental care.”
According to the study, 67.7% of adults aged 65 to 74 had a dental visit in the previous 12 months, dropping to 64.1% among those aged 75 to 84 and 57.9% among those 85 and older, with a 65.6% rate among all those 65 and older.
Income plays significant a role in who sees the dentist, as poor and near-poor older adults were less likely to have had a dental visit in the past year (42.7% and 42.8%, respectively) compared to adults who were not poor (74.4%).
Poor and near-poor adults 65 and older similarly were more likely to have an unmet need for dental care due to cost (14.4% and 14.1%, respectively) compared to adults who weren’t poor (5.2%).
However, the percentage of adults age 65 and older with an unmet need for dental care due to cost decreased with age, from 9.0% among those age 65 to 74 to 6.3% among those age 74 to 84 to 4.2% among those 85 and older.
Meanwhile, edentate older adults were less likely to have dental insurance than their dentate peers (14.9% to 32.5%, respectively). Edentate adults age 65 and older also were less likely (30.3%) than dentate adults (73.6%) to have had a dental visit in the past 12 months.
“Chronic diseases that may impact oral health and the need for care, such as diabetes and osteoporosis, are common among the older population, and poor oral health may contribute to the risk of certain conditions,” said Kramarow.
The data brief, “Dental Care Among Adults Aged 65 and Over, 2017,” was published by the NCHS.