Older adults have an increased risk of poor oral health due to a number of factors, including inadequate access to dental care services. Because oral health is known to contribute to the overall health and wellness of older adults, the Older Americans Act includes it as a major component of its disease prevention and health promotion services.
Components of the Oral Health Program
The Department is an active member of the LifeLong Smiles Coalition, which works to improve oral health access for older Iowans. Current initiatives include:
This pilot project is working to create local systems to improve the ability of Iowans aged 60 or older to prevent dental disease, access oral health care and maintain overall health. The project is currently active in Lee, Scott and Van Buren Counties.
Mouth Care Matters
This competency-based Oral Health Specialty Training curriculum has been developed for direct care professionals serving persons who reside in the community or in long-term care facilities and health care settings. Training is designed to enhance the oral health skills of Iowa's direct care workforce in an effort to improve oral health care practices for and among older adults.
Benefits to Older Iowans
As detailed in this Policy Brief by the Administration on Community Living, oral health services are often not covered by Medicare, leaving many older adults without access to critical care. Because poor oral health has been shown to contribute to other health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and respiratory infections, improving awareness of and access to oral health care can significantly reduce the rate of oral infections and tooth loss among older Iowans.