ANCHOR LEAD: MANY OLDER PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THEIR TEETH BUT DON’T SEE A DENTIST, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS
It’s always been a suspect division: teeth and the rest of the body, as though they were unrelated. Now a new study shows that while the majority of older Americans see a doctor at least once a year, fewer than half see a dentist, with serious health consequences. Michelle Bellantoni, a geriatrics expert at Johns Hopkins, is concerned.
BELLANTONI: In this country eight out of ten older adults see a health care provider at least once a year, and yet less than half see a dental provider. The more recent studies have shown that poor oral health leads to significant changes in the health status of older adults, in particular cardiovascular disease and inflammation. So what this study did was first of all identify why older adults are not seeing dental providers and while we know that a quarter of older adults have no teeth, for the three quarters who do the most commonly cited reason for not seeing a dental provider is the cost. :33
Medicare doesn’t pay for dental services, but likely should, Bellantoni says. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.