Progress has been made in reducing dental caries and edentulism in older adults, but disparities continue to exist related to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, and sex. Lack of training in treating medically complex patients, economic factors including absence of coverage for oral health services in Medicare and as a required service for adults in Medicaid, and attitudinal issues on the part of patients, caregivers, and providers contribute to barriers to care for older adults. In addition to the impact of oral health on overall health, oral health impacts quality of life and social and employment opportunities.
Oral health disparities exist in the aging population regarding untreated dental caries and edentulism related to income, sex, race and ethnicity, and education level.
Access to dental care in older adults may be complicated by several factors including finances; transportation; medical and psychological complexities; and attitudes of patients, caregivers, and providers.
Oral health has far greater implications on quality of life for older adults than generally recognized, including employment opportunities. Disparities in public policy regarding oral health for older adults nationally may compound social inequities.