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Dental visits drop significantly in old age

Visits to the dentist drop significantly after adults turn 80, finds a new study by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, published in the journal Research on Aging.

Oral health is increasingly recognised as an essential part of healthy aging. It is closely related to overall health status and quality of life, and regular dental checkups can prevent oral diseases and maintain good oral health.

However, regularly seeing a dentist is a challenge for many, especially older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrant populations. Older adults face barriers such as a lack of access to quality dental care, awareness of the importance of oral health, and dental insurance coverage. 

“To promote oral health, seeing a dentist regularly is critical,” said Wei Zhang, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and the study’s first author. “Failure to engage in preventive dental care may lead to serious consequences such as tooth decay, pain, tooth loss, and inflammation.”

In this study, the researchers examined how often people see a dentist as they age, focusing on adults 51 years and older. The researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a longitudinal study from the University of Michigan that conducts interviews with a national sample of middle-aged and older adults. 

Seventy per cent of adults had visited a dentist in the past two years, but this rate decreased significantly beginning around age 80.

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