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Press Release

2014 Oral Health Survey of New Hampshire Older Adults
Do New Hampshire Seniors Have a Reason to Smile?
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Oral Health Program
Publish Date:
December 1, 2014

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Public Health Services, Oral Health Program has released the results of the 2014 Oral Health Survey of New Hampshire Older Adults that are based on data collected at 25 Senior Centers and Congregate Meal Sites in our State and the news is compelling. Altogether, 18.9% of older adults are in need of early or urgent dental care that may be difficult to access particularly due to financial and transportation issues. The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors funded this survey of adults aged 60 and older and the New Hampshire Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS) provided funding from its Title IIID Older Americans Act allocation for all dental treatment referrals resulting from the survey. Altogether, 610 adults 60 years of age and older were screened; 38 of these received restorative treatment using BEAS funds.

The results of this survey provide important insights into the dental needs of our older residents who remain active and live independently. Collected data show that only 18.4% of older adults have some type of dental insurance to help pay for routine dental care, 28.0% of older adults have no functional top to bottom tooth contact, which affects proper chewing, and 15.9% of older adults have lost all of their natural teeth, which greatly impacts their quality of life and well being. Approximately 5.2% of individuals with no teeth have no dentures, which interferes with eating and daily functioning. Similarly, 25.4% of older adults have untreated decay or root fragments, and 6.8% are in need of periodontal care. The report reveals that there are significant geographic and socioeconomic disparities in our State. Older residents living in rural areas and those with lower incomes have a significantly greater unmet need for dental care.

"Oral diseases and conditions are common among our New Hampshire seniors," said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS, "many of whom grew up without the benefit of community water fluoridation and other fluoride products. This survey illustrates that New Hampshire seniors with the poorest oral health are those who are economically disadvantaged and live in the most rural parts of our State. This is not a cosmetic issue. Our seniors have conditions that impact their ability to eat and may impact their overall health."

The collected data help to identify gaps in service delivery to older adults who represent a substantial proportion of the State’s population. In fact, the current number of New Hampshire adults 65 years old and older is about 200,000. The Oral Health Program has received federal funding for two new dental facilities in health centers located in rural New Hampshire. Oral health care will be integrated into medical care for underserved rural residents, including older adults with a greater unmet need for dental care. A similar survey will track the progress in the future. To view the full report, visit http://www.dhhs.state.nh.us/dphs//bchs/rhpc/oral/documents/older-adults-2014.pdf.

 
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