NH DHHS - Do New Hampshire Seniors Have a Reason to Smile?

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