August 17, 2018
In a state as diverse as California, it’s not often that nearly everyone agrees on something. That’s why it’s notable that 87 percent of Californians agree that providing dental care to seniors is as important as providing access to healthcare. Taking it one step further, 82 percent of California voters say they are more likely to support legislative action that improves seniors’ access to dental care. The recent statewide polls of California voters, one in January and one in June of 2018, could help guide candidates hoping to win the governorship and other elected offices in the upcoming November election.
The results are also an indicator that California voters are well-informed on the issue of dental care and older adults. Perhaps that’s not surprising, since 45 percent of California’s likely voters are age 55 and older. They likely know that Medicare doesn’t cover dental care and employees typically lose dental coverage when they retire, putting access to dentists out of reach for many older Californians.
The lack of dental care among seniors is considered to be a major public health problem worldwide. In the United States alone, more than two out of three seniors have gum disease, one in five has at least one untreated cavity and one in five has lost all of their teeth.
Improving access to oral healthcare and other issues critical to seniors are why West Health and The SCAN Foundation launched We Stand With Seniors – an educational and awareness campaign bringing to light the specialized needs of our growing senior population so that policymakers and the healthcare community can make them a priority.
It’s important that California’s elected officials and candidates for governor understand that oral health is not a standalone issue. Tooth and gum problems are connected to many other health conditions affecting seniors, in part because poor dental health makes it harder for seniors to eat a healthy diet that includes fruit and vegetables. Bad or missing teeth and gum disease are also connected to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and cognitive decline. Added together, not having access to affordable, high-quality dental care reduces the quality of life of our seniors and increases their healthcare costs.
Fortunately, there are common sense solutions within reach. Visit our page on oral healthcare to learn how California’s state leaders can increase access to dental care, which can help seniors age with the dignity and independence they deserve.