NH DHHS - Promotes Good Oral Health among Older Adults in Honor of National Senior Center Month

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

(DHHS), Division of Public Health Services, Oral Health Program, has been

providing oral health screenings in senior centers around the State to

raise awareness of the importance of oral health for New Hampshire's older


Older adults face barriers to regular dental care due to a lack of dental

insurance, financial constraints, absence of perceived need, and

transportation issues. A recent statewide survey of older adults in senior

centers documented an unmet need for dental care among seniors living

independently in their communities, particularly among those residing in

rural areas, and those with limited incomes. Twenty-four percent of older

adults have untreated decay and sharp broken teeth.

“Because many seniors have unmet oral health needs, the Department is

promoting innovative approaches to dental care to help seniors prevent and

control tooth decay,” said Marcella Bobinsky, Acting Director of the

Division Public Health Services. “Oral health is part of healthy aging; you

can’t be healthy without good oral health.”

Older adults with urgent dental needs in six selected senior centers who

have been identified by hygienists are referred to participating local

dental offices, where their treatment is paid for through funds from DHHS.

These services are especially important for older adults because poor oral

health impacts their nutritional status, social functioning, and overall

well-being. As the gateway to the body, the mouth is constantly challenged

by bacteria and viruses that cause infection and inflammation. Dental

caries (cavities) and the periodontal diseases (such as gingivitis and

periodontitis) have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes,

respiratory diseases, and cancer.

The Oral Health Program received funds from the National Association of

Chronic Disease Directors to provide seniors with screening assessments,

oral health education, and referrals for treatment.

While these programs are important, funding for seniors’ dental screening

assessments ends on September 30, 2015. DHHS is raising awareness of the

issue to show the importance of sustaining the screening program and adding

on-site preventive oral health services to additional sites in the state.

For more information about screening sites or the Oral Health Program in

New Hampshire visit http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/bchs/rhpc/oral/index.htm.

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