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A peer-reviewed journal that offers evidence-based clinical information and continuing education for dentists.

Cracking Down on Tooth Loss: Progress and Persistent Challenges in Oral Health for Older Adults

A look at the latest progress and ongoing challenges in combating tooth loss among older adults. Learn how regional and demographic disparities affect oral health, and see which states are leading or lagging behind in the fight for better dental care.

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Edentulism remains a significant health marker among older adults, primarily caused by dental caries and periodontal diseases. While the national prevalence of edentulism in adults aged 65 and older decreased from 13.4% to 12.1% between 2020 and 2022, it is still nowhere near the Healthy People 2030 target of 5.4%. More than 6.9 million older adults in the United States were edentulous in 2022. Significant regional and demographic disparities exist, with tooth loss rates being higher among those with less education, lower income, certain racial and ethnic groups, those with disabilities, and residents in non-metropolitan areas.

The prevalence of edentulism varies drastically by state and demographic factors. For instance, older adults without a high school education are 7.9 times more likely to be edentulous than those with a college degree. Similarly, those with household incomes under $25,000 have a 5.5 times higher likelihood of complete tooth loss compared to those with incomes over $75,000. Geographic disparities are stark, with West Virginia’s edentulism rate at 25.2%, compared to Hawaii’s 5.4%.

Utah has been recognized as the healthiest state for older adults for the third consecutive year, excelling in social and economic factors, behaviors, clinical care, health outcomes, and physical environment. Conversely, Mississippi ranks as the least healthy state, with poor performance in social and economic factors, behaviors, and clinical care.

The Healthy People 2030 initiative, led by the US Department of Health and Human Services, aims to address social determinants of health and achieve health equity. The United Health Foundation supports these goals through the America’s Health Rankings platform, which provides data to track national health progress. The 2024 Senior Report highlights advancements toward these targets and underscores the importance of data-driven approaches to improve public health and reduce disparities. By focusing on these efforts, the healthcare community can work towards better oral health outcomes for older adults and promote overall well-being across various populations. Click here to read more.

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