Fewer than half of older adults have access to oral health care each year. One in five older adults has untreated tooth decay and 70 percent have gum disease. Poor oral health and lack of access to health care are even more acute for low-income seniors, seniors of color, and rural seniors. Because oral health is an integral part of overall health and untreated dental problems can cause and/or exacerbate other serious health issues, it is critical to expand older adults’ access to oral health care.
Because all older adults rely on Medicare for their health care needs, integrating oral health benefits into Medicare Part B is the most effective way to deliver comprehensive benefits to all Medicare beneficiaries. Justice in Aging’s statutory analysis shows how such a benefit could be structured and where statutory language could be changed to accommodate such a benefit.