Oral Health America’s annual Fall for Smiles® campaign is just around the corner, which focuses on educating all Americans about the importance of oral health and how to keep a healthy smile through daily brushing and flossing, regular visits to the dentist, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco. With the country’s older adult population expected to double by 2030, this year OHA has focused the campaign on older Americans and how they are particularly vulnerable to oral disease.
According to a recent public opinion survey commissioned by OHA and sponsored by 3M ESPE, Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait, and Crest + OralB, low income older adults are at a particularly high risk for oral disease. The survey showed that almost half of older adults with a household income of $35,000 or less have not been to the dentist in the past two years. In addition, 35 percent of low income older adults have gone four years or more between dental visits. Without regular preventative care, these older adults are at risk for developing serious oral health problems, which can then complicate or cause other medical issues. As mentioned in a recent article in The New York Times, new studies are showing that a lack of regular dental hygiene can lead to a higher risk of pneumonia in older adults, which is the leading cause of death for institutionalized older adults.
In addition to drawing more attention to the issues facing older adults and access to care with our survey results, this year’s Fall for Smiles campaign includes resources and materials tailored specifically to older adults and their caregivers. Visit the Fall for Smiles webpage and find a tip sheet for how to discuss oral health with older adults, a template press release and letter to the editor that feature our survey data, and a social media guide with suggested language for spreading the word about these important issues on Facebook and Twitter.
Keep an eye on OHA’s website as our Sept. 1 launch date approaches for even more ways to participate. With your help, we can make oral health a priority for Americans of all ages.