Chicago-based Oral Health America recently released A State of Decay, a study analyzing state-by-state public health factors impacting the oral health of older adults. One of the findings of the report revealed Illinois received a “fair” score of only 67.9 out of 100.
Reportedly close to 70 percent of older Americans are without dental insurance nationwide. It also indicated that between 14.9 and 19.8 percent of older Americans in Illinois do not have any teeth, which may cause individuals to forgo nutritious food.
To rectify this problem, Oral Health America has launched toothwisdom.org, a first-of-its-kind online tool that connects older adults to care and educates them on the importance of maintaining oral health.
Beth Truett, President and CEO of Oral Health America, talked to Brandi Walker about this online tool, what she hopes it will accomplish for oral health and the lack of quality dental insurance in Illinois.
- Tell me more about the website, toothwisdom.org, features. Toothwisdom.org is an online tool that connects older adults and their caregivers to local resources, and offers reliable oral care information from experts across the country. Increasingly, adults who are “aging at home” are being cared for by a child, relative or friend who is responsible for ensuring that the adult has oral healthcare. In a Harris Interactive public opinion survey commissioned by Oral Health America, 739 of 3,000 adults reported being a care advisor or caregiver in need of resources based on knowledge of gum disease, edentulism (tooth loss) and other related diseases.
- An interactive map linking to local care resources by state, including dental, caregiving, financial, transportation, and others that address barriers in accessing care.
- Articles written by dental, hygiene and other allied health professionals.
- The latest news in oral health and caregiving for older adults.
- A new Oral Health America state-by-state report on older adult oral health, A State of Decay, which provides a tool for consumers to work toward improving their state policies and services.
- What do you hope this website will accomplish for oral health in the future? The website intends to increase oral health knowledge among caregivers of older adults, many of whom are baby boomers coming of age. It also was developed for older adults, themselves, to increase their access to and utilization of existing public dental services. Given that most caregivers and older adults seek health information online, an environmental scan of online resources, conducted by OHA in the past 24 months, indicated that this resource is badly needed and will be used to connect visitors to the information they need and currently are not getting.
- Why do you think dental insurance is so limited in Illinois? The biggest problem that Illinois faces with regard to dental insurance is a national problem: Medicare does not provide coverage. Most older adults rely on Medicare for health insurance, and without covering dental, their oral health goes neglected. Ten-thousand adults retire in the United States every day and only 2% retire with dental insurance. Illinois has limited Medicaid reimbursements for Adult dental which means that if a dentist treats a Medicaid patient the state will only reimburse for some services, at a low reimbursement fee. As a result, dentists often will not treat Medicaid patients. This is disturbing because Illinois strategically addressed the needs of older adults in the recently published State Oral Health Plan thanks to a historically pro-oral health Governor and an energetic State Dental Director. Yet due to extreme budge crunching, only limited and emergency funds are available.