AAPHD Resolution on Establishment of Needed Oral Health Services for Older Americans

Passed by AAPHD Executive Council, November 1989
J Pub Health Dent 1991;51(2):72.

WHEREAS, the population over age 65 is the fastest growing population in the United States, and may constitute 13 percent of the total United States population by the year 2000 (1); and

WHEREAS, increasing life expectancy will create greater need for a sound dentition for a longer life span; and

WHEREAS, oral diseases are most prevalent among older population groups (2); and Americans aged 65 and older are ten times more likely to be edentulous than those under 65 and are at greatest risk for oral cancer (3); and

WHEREAS, the Surgeon General of the United States has recognized that the availability of routine diagnostic, education, and preventive dental services can prevent, limit, or reverse the majority of these problems to benefit the oral and physical health and general well-being of the older population (2); and

WHEREAS, nearly half of the overall population of the United States is covered by dental insurance (2), while less than 12 percent in the age group 65 or older is covered (4) and state Medicaid programs generally offer minimal, if any, dental benefits for older adults (5); and

WHEREAS, the majority of older Americans rely heavily on limited, fixed incomes (1), which makes the out-of-pocket purchase of dental services difficult and those least well off financially are the least likely to seek needed dental services; and

WHEREAS, very few state dental disease prevention programs are targeted to the population aged 65 and older; therefore


Calls upon the Congress of the United States to enact legislation authorizing the addition of dental benefits to the Medicare program that would assure necessary preventive and emergency dental services to the Medicare-eligible population; and

Calls upon the Congress of the United States to modify current Medicaid legislation to require participating states and territories to provide dental benefits for all Medicaid-eligible older adults that would include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services, and would reimburse providers at a level adequate to assure their participation and patient access to care; and

Calls upon the sponsors of national health proposal to include oral health services for all Americans, including older Americans, as a necessary component; and

Endorses current efforts of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) to establish a multi-agency national adult oral health promotion initiative; and

Calls upon the governors and legislators of the states and territories to take steps to assure that economically disadvantaged older adults in their states and territories have access to needed dental preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services through their respective Medicaid programs; and

Calls upon state and territorial health officials to take steps to implement community-based oral health programs targeted to needs of older adults in their jurisdictions.


1. Aging in America: trends and projections. US Department of Health and Human Services, 1987-88.
2. Oral Health of the United States. The national survey of oral health in US employed adults and seniors, 1985-86. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Aug 1987.
3. Pindborg JJ. Oral cancer and pre-cancer as diseases of the aged. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 1978;6:300-7.
4. National Center for Health Statistics. Use of dental services and dental health, United States, 1986. Vital and Health Statistics (Series 10, no. 165), DHHS, Public Health Service. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1987.
5. Dental programs in Medicaid: the 1988 survey. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association, Council on Dental Care Programs, 1989.