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More Elderly Keeping Their Natural Teeth

More Community Dental Programs and Education Needed
By
WebMD Health News

Dec. 18, 2003 -- The numbers of older people retaining their natural teeth has increased steadily over past decades, the CDC says. That trend is likely to continue, vastly improving quality of life for seniors, the new report shows.

But elderly Americans need greater help from community sources for dental care, since Medicaid coverage is limited, the report says. Ethnic minorities, people living in poverty, and those in poor general health are most at risk of losing all their teeth in old age.

The study, published today, provides results of a nationwide telephone survey of 50,635 adults over age 65. The survey included all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.

Among the findings:

  • In 26 states, more than half of older adults have most of their teeth -- which means they have lost five or fewer.
  • Estimates of most-tooth retention ranged from 27% in West Virginia to 64% in Utah. In three states -- California, Colorado, and Utah -- more than 60% had retained most teeth.
  • In five states and territories -- Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- less than 40% had retained most teeth.
  • The numbers of older adults that had lost all of their natural teeth varied from state to state. Hawaii and California had 13% missing all natural teeth; Kentucky and West Virginia reported having more than 40% of older adults having loss all their natural teeth.

The top five surveyed with the healthiest oral hygiene in older adults were:

 

1. Utah

64%

2. California, Colorado

61%

3. Hawaii

60%

4. Minnesota

59%

5. Arizona

57%

 

Those states reporting most loss of teeth in older adults:

 

1. Kentucky, West Virginia

42%

2. Tennessee

36%

3. Mississippi

35%

4. Louisiana

34%

5. North Carolina, Oklahoma

33%

 

African-Americans living in poverty, with little formal education, were most likely not to get treatment for cavities or more serious dental problems, the CDC report shows.

Surveys have shown that Mexican-Americans also have high rates of untreated cavities. Lack of education about dental care and little access to dental care likely play a role in those communities, the report explains.

 

Smoking Hard on Gums

Smokers have lowest rates of tooth retention, which might be related directly to adverse effects of cigarette smoking. Nearly half the cases of gum disease in this country are related to smoking.

While many aging adults have retained their natural teeth, those in poor health need more help keeping their teeth, the report says. They have lost dexterity, mobility, and tolerance for stress -- all of which compromise their ability to take care of their teeth, visit the dentist, or tolerate dental treatment.

Community water fluoridation provides the most effective and cost-effective method for preventing cavities. But paying for dental care is an issue for many elderly people. Most elderly people lose dental insurance when they retire. And Medicaid provides only limited coverage of dental services in certain states.

More community-based dental programs are needed to help elderly people take care of their teeth, the CDC report concludes.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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