The Oncoming Dental Health Dilemma

As the New Year rolls around and the new Affordable Care Act offers up insurance to millions and millions of people all over the nation, many will soon note that dental care is not among those services covered. Because of this and other factors, some health care authorities predict a dental health disaster may be headed our way. Oral Health America (OHA), a national dental non-profit, recently came out with a report indicating that baby boomers especially could be in for some serious dental damage in the coming years.

Only 2% Covered

The problem is this: the American boomer population are by and large keeping their teeth and all those bicuspids and molars that have been used for 60 plus years will eventually have dental issues. Services like Medicare do not include dental coverage, and even Medigap insurance, meant to literally cover the gaps in Medicare, does not cover most dental work. Only around 2% of older adults in the Unites States have dental insurance, the OHA report goes on to say, also noting that those of lower income or who are part of the minority populations, find themselves particularly exposed to dental health risks.

Can Lead To Other Health Issues

In the end, dental care may be just too expensive for parts of the population, it is feared by some advocates. This inadequate oral care among such a sizeable slice of the population could be a prelude to larger health troubles, as well. Dental issues like periodontal or gum disease can lead to more dire health problems like diabetes, strokes, or high blood pressure. Dental care is often seen as a peripheral medical care, but as emergency room visits for oral health have increased by 200% over the last ten years, how long can it be treated as such?

Oregon Ranks In The Bottom

The Oral Health America study also rated states on the dental care that is available for their residents. The study took into account factors like tooth loss, fluoride in the water, the number of dentists, readiness of state health plans, and Medicaid availability. Our own state of Oregon was included in the 17 states ranked “poor” in the study along with states from California to Maine.

The Good News

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as over 80% of the states have some sort of state oral health plan and there has also been a rise in the number of federally qualified health centers offering dental services. Additionally, there is a bill named the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act currently in Congress that would expand and include dental coverage in the Affordable Care Act as well as Medicaid and Medicare (and veterans’ benefits).

As the majority of the population ages, it is important to recognize the importance our oral health has on the health of the populace as a whole. There are resources such as the Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging website and OHA’s own page at toothwisdom.org, which are full of resources and more information to help make sure your teeth stay healthy and happy.