Older Americans struggling to find proper dental care

March 7th, 2014

The U.S. touts itself as being one the greatest and most developed nations in the world. However, Oral Health America's recent report titled "State of Decay: Are Older Americans Coming of Age Without Oral Healthcare?" suggests that – at least for seniors – dentists are struggling to deliver adequate care. Dental academic software can help university clinics interact and engage patients better, leading to improved care. But for many, going to a dentist isn't even an option.

It may come as a surprise, but older adults make up one of the fastest growing demographics in the country, according to the report. While American seniors totaled an estimated 40 million in 2009, by 2030 researchers believe the aging population is likely to reach 72 million, an increase of more than 80 percent.

As people age, their body weakens and becomes more susceptible to disease and illness. Oral Health America researchers claim that older adults are at an increased risk for a number of oral conditions, including periodontal disease and oral cancer. In the past, dental care for seniors was regularly dismissed because of overwhelming cases of edentulism, which is the loss of all natural permanent teeth. In recent years, cases have begun to radically decrease and seniors are seeking out more oral care in the later stages of life.

With proper care, seniors can maintain healthy mouths. However, many simply don't have access to a dentist.

Older adults need better access to care
Seniors are in a position to become one of the most dominant portions of the population. With a large portion of the dentistry community set to retire soon, many worry the current workforce is capable of meeting their needs, the report read. The shortage has already begun to affect how older adults seek care. Instead of seeking out clinics and private practices, seniors are instead being forced to get help through emergency rooms.

Since 1999, emergency room visits for dental-related issues among adults over 65 has doubled, rising from 1 million to approximately 2.3 million, and the trend shows now slowing down.

Leveraging the many advantages of dental school software, especially in regards to documentation, billing and treatment, university clinics can streamline processes and increase patient volumes. For patients in underserved communities, better care may lie in the The Comprehensive Dental Reform Act currently being pushed through congress by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D – Vt.). If passed, the legislation will provide additional funding to extending care.

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