“Prevention is key when discussing oral health, if you can prevent oral diseases, you can prevent other serious health problems” like diabetes, stroke and heart disease, said Fotinos S. Panagakos, DMD, Ph.D., global director, scientific affairs, Colgate-Palmolive Co., during a Capitol Hill briefing on October 4 in Washington, D.C., hosted by Research!America and Colgate-Palmolive. The event, “Oral Health in an Aging Nation: An Unmet Public Health Challenge,” was widely-attended by congressional staff, and research and public health advocates.
One out of five low-income seniors consistently have pain in their mouth while chewing, noted Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist & vice president, Health Policy Institute, American Dental Association, adding that unmet dental needs affect people’s quality of life, nutrition and overall well-being. Many patients do not go to the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance. Panelists all agreed that Medicare should include dental health benefits for older Americans.
Beth Truett, B.S., MDiv, president and CEO, Oral Health America, discussed the need for stronger support for legislation such as the Older Americans Act Reauthorization of 2016 which includes a provision for oral health screenings. Oral Health America published a report on the current state of oral health among seniors across the country, ranking each of the 50 states on measures such as dental coverage, screenings and access to fluoridated water..
Other panelists included Michael C. Alfano, DMD, Ph.D., president, Santa Fe Group Professor, dean and executive vice president emeritus, New York University; and Judith Jones, DDS, MPH, DScD, director, Center for Clinical Research professor, Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research and Department of General Dentistry, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.