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Teeth survey shows dental help needed

16 December 2010

Teeth survey shows dental help needed

Today's latest Dental Health Survey found that more older people are keeping their natural teeth into older age; but will this be a health and financial nightmare for them, Age Concern asks.

In the 20 years since the last major survey, the proportion of 65-74 year-olds facing total tooth loss has reduced from nearly two-thirds to less than one-third.

But the cost of going to the dentist is blighting that good news story, and Age Concern says dental care subsidies are needed.

The survey says "older people experienced relatively high levels of untreated decay and missing teeth."

Age Concern national president Liz Baxendine says "most seniors get no help with dental bills, and many are struggling to pay for treatment. The problem will get worse as increasing numbers of older people enter later life with expensive-to-maintain fillings and partial dentures."

Almost half of the surveyed adults (44 percent) said that cost is a major barrier to visiting their dentist. One-in-four had had to skip recommended treatment because of the cost. Yet the survey shows that people who visit regularly have better teeth and better oral health overall.

"We're delighted to see that the percentage of older people (65-74) having regular check-ups has doubled in twenty years (it's now 47 percent), rather than just crisis visits. But check-ups aren't much help, when older people tell us they then can't pay for the treatments their dentists recommend."

Age Concern says lifelong dental care subsidies should be available, and is also urging dentists to provide SuperGold Card discounts.

The national organisation for older people is particularly concerned at the plight of the older-old.

"For older people, it gets harder to maintain their teeth as they move from the 65-74 cohort into 75-plus. Key barriers are cost and mobility issues, especially for people in rest homes, who struggle to get any dental treatment at all.

"The survey results show that older people are increasingly taking responsibility for their own dental health, but there comes a point when they need community and Government help to maintain this," Liz Baxendine says.

ENDS

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