Nationally, 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day. In Washington that means approximately 830,000 adults are over age 65 and the number is growing rapidly. Typically by age 65, older adults are managing at least two chronic conditions and are usually taking multiple medications to control symptoms.
Older adults are more likely to have diabetes. Severe gum disease can make it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. Lack of blood sugar control leads to costly diabetic complications. Many seniors take multiple medications which increases their risk for dry mouth, which can quickly lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Untreated dental disease can also result in pain, infection, poor nutrition, and even social isolation, all of which can have a devastating impact on quality of life. Yet regular preventive dental care may help avoid these issues and expensive emergency department visits.
Most seniors lack private dental insurance and Medicare does not cover dental care. Many seniors on a fixed income cannot afford to pay the usual and customary fees of private dentists or do not understand the importance of oral health and thus do not prioritize paying out-of-pocket for care.
What the Legislature can do:
- Protect existing dental coverage for vulnerable adults on Medicaid.
- Protect state funding to Area Agencies on Aging, which play a critical role in promoting healthy aging including good oral health.