Senior Oral Health: Perception Influences Seeking Treatment

Trusted Health Products
Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Researchers with the School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University recently took a look at how senior citizens perceive the importance of their oral health. And the answer can make the difference whether they seek treatment or not. They sought to find a correlation between seniors who value dental care and those who seek it out - despite cost, transportation and other barriers.
They used the Common Sense Model of Self-Regulation. This is a psychological framework describing a person’s perception of chronic issues that drive coping and action-planning. Changing perceptions is a key component important in restructuring older adults’ perception of dental conditions, and subsequently improving oral health quality of life. They surveyed 198 Northeast Ohio residents age 62 and older from 16 senior housing facilities. A 43-item illness perception questionnaire assessed their cognitive and emotional representation of their dental condition. They also collected information on their demographics, the perceived condition of their teeth and gums, depression, social support and quality of life as it relates to their oral health. They examined patients for any missing teeth, coronal and root caries and periodontitis. They felt that demographics didn’t make much difference in the results, meaning that there was something else at work to explain why some seniors have more dental issues than others – which came down to perception.


The study - published in the Public Library of Science - also notes that the Common Sense Model can be used to design behavioral interventions to change perceptions about seniors’ oral health. “First, we wanted to develop a new survey instrument that can measure seniors’ perception of oral diseases,” says Suchitra Nelson, lead author, professor of community dentistry and assistant dean of clinical and translational research at the dental school. “Once we can measure this, then we can design behavioral interventions to see if they seek treatment. We speculate that if seniors value dental care, they’ll seek it out. Barriers such as cost, transportation and other medical issues should not interfere if beliefs about the importance of dental care are high enough.”

Aging, Oral Health And Overall Health

While oral health is a critical component to overall health for all ages, vigilance is also critical for the elderly. Authors with UConn Health recently outlined the potential complications that can arise from poor oral hygiene in older adults and cite the role of all health care professionals in working to promote good oral hygiene in this population. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that the prevalence of cavities is more than twice as high in older adults than younger adults. The prevalence of periodontitis also increases with age. As many as 64 percent of older adults in the U.S. have periodontitis. Researchers noted several populations of older adults who are at increased risk for oral health problems, including patients with diabetes, patients with dementia, and those in long-term care settings. The results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Patients with dementia may neglect their oral health and may be reluctant to see a dental hygienist, and many residents in nursing homes also do not receive adequate dental care, despite federal requirements for nursing homes to provide both routine and emergency dental care. The experts recommend that all older adults should have biannual dental cleaning performed by a hygienist and a biannual oral health assessment by their dentist. "All health care professionals should work to promote good oral hygiene for their older patients," says Dr. Patrick Coll, professor of family medicine and medicine at the UConn School of Medicine. “They should consider an oral examination during an annual wellness visit, especially for those patients who are not receiving regular dental care. Even tooth brushing for those who have poor oral hygiene can cause bacteria to be released into the blood stream and these bacteria can potentially cause joint infections and heart valve infections.”

“Your mouth is a mirror to your body," added Dr. Sree Raghavendra, co-author of the article and assistant professor in the Department of Craniofacial Sciences at the UConn School of Dental Medicine. "This research is a prime example of true interprofessional collaboration that emphasizes the importance of the entire health care team coming together to take care of all of our patients and especially our geriatric population."

Looking for a 100% all-natural liquid tooth oil and mouth rinse? Check out OraMD Original Strength and OraMD Extra Strength. Subscribe to our Trusted Health Club newsletter for more information about natural living tips, natural health, oral health and skincare. If you are looking for more health resources make sure to check out the Trusted Health Resources list. 

Written By:

With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.

Reviewed By:

Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at

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