Good oral health care should begin at birth as part of overall health care. This important component of health care should not—and cannot—end at retirement. Proper dental care must be a lifetime commitment. Unfortunately, for far too many older Americans, oral health care is a luxury. Too many of our “greatest generation” suffer from chronic oral pain and periodontal disease, severely limiting regular activities of daily living and impeding their independence and quality of life.
Mira provides comprehensive dental services to residents in long-term care facilities and other non-traditional locations. This is so important because neglect of oral health in the elderly can lead to the deterioration of overall physical health. Lack of access to care for even routine dental cleanings and exams can exacerbate serious and complicated overall health problems that increase with age. Several reports link low-grade chronic infection in the mouth (periodontal diseases) to systemic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases and respiratory ailments.. Numerous studies indicate a bi-directional relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes. Improved periodontal health in people with diabetes may lead to improved metabolic control and reduced risk of further development of this disease.
While older people are keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before, there are sharp differences by race and socioeconomic status. A 2007 study indicated that:
- One in four seniors suffers from advanced dental disease, which often makes eating, swallowing and speaking difficult, destroying their quality of life.
- Up to 96% of residents older than 65 who are in long-term care facilities have unmet oral health needs. What’s more, up to 80% have substandard levels of oral hygiene.
- Slightly more than one-half of adults 65 years of age and older had a dental visit in the past year. The percent of persons with dental visits varied by race, education, and whether they had their natural teeth.
- Nearly 30% of persons 65 years of age and older have untreated dental caries.
- Over 50% of adults aged 65 to 74 living in poverty had untreated caries
- 7% of adults 65 years and older reported having tooth pain at least twice during the past 6 months.
- Older adults who belonged to racial/ethnic minorities or who had a low level of education were more likely to report dental pain than older non-minorities or older better educated adults.
- Oral cancer increases with age. Mortality rates from oral cancer are higher among minorities.
- Most elderly dental expenses are paid out of pocket.
Mira is expert at providing comprehensive dental care in non-traditional locations to people with special needs. While we employ the best practices and experience we have amassed since 1996 in all our on-site programs, we recognize the unique level of care required by the elderly. Our nursing home staff is specifically chosen because of their experience in treating senior citizens.
“We believe that all New Mexicans should have the opportunity to attain their full health potential. No one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their socio-economic position or racial/ethnic origins. As stakeholders, we affirm that oral health is essential to general health and well-being and are dedicated to increasing access to care for all citizens.”