Now and then it seems, the US Congress can be depended upon to take positive action on behalf of their constituents. Though this seems to take place rarely enough, when this does happen, and when the benefits relate directly to the oral health of our readers, the Dental Health Blog will share the information with you.
Congress acts to improve oral health of older Americans
Enacted into law in 1965, the Older Americans Act provides federal funds for vital programs that help the aged, such as Meals on Wheels and other programs that help seniors with transportation, elder abuse prevention, legal assistance and caregiver support. Now, thanks to an amendment that passed the U.S. Senate by a unanimous voice vote July 15, the Act would also cover dental care services, should it be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed into law by the president.
This change could help seniors receive the oral health care services they need to stay healthy, maintain their confidence, and continue feeling good about themselves and their smile.
“They can’t do this fast enough,” said Carole Wildermuth in the online journal the Bend Bulletin, employment and training coordinator with Experience Works, an Oregon state program that helps people who are 55 or older obtain the skills needed to find a job in today’s workforce. She also said that close to three-fourths of her clients, many of whom are lower-income, have some type of an oral health issue.
Oral health linked to deadly diseases
This news comes at a particularly appropriate time, since the latest statistics on the oral health of older Americans are disturbing. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, among US adults aged 65 or older, more than 33% have not visited a dentist in over two years. When asked to describe the condition of their teeth and gums a similar numbers of Americans responded with just “fair” or “poor”.
Even more disturbing as a microcosm of the problem, the Oregon Oral Health Coalition reports that 37% of the state’s residents aged 65 or older have lost six or more teeth, and that 18% of elderly Oregonians have no natural remaining.
These statistics are ever more concerning to public health officials, as increasing evidence has grown which shows that poor oral health and tooth loss have become leading indicators for other serious diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which we have previously discussed here at the Dental Health Blog.
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