Programs and Initiatives in Communities – Older Adult Basic Screening Survey

Data Projects
Basic Screening Survey for Older Adults

A growing older adult population means a growing need for oral health care

Oral health is vital to overall health and wellbeing. Poor oral health can limit food choices and nutrition, restrict socializing and intimacy, and increase the risk of other health problems. Dental disease is largely preventable through regular dental care and good oral hygiene habits.

Did you know that between 2010 and 2030, Minnesota’s older adult population is expected to double? By that time, 20 percent of Minnesotans will be age 65 or older.1

To assess the oral health needs of this growing population, the Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program carried out the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) standardized survey – Older Adult Basic Screening Survey (Older Adult BSS) – in 2016 with funding from Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A team of licensed dental hygienists and public health professionals screened 1,032 total residents aged 65 years and older living in 31 randomly selected Medicare and Medicaid-eligible Minnesota skilled nursing facilities that have at least 30 beds.

Survey results reveal a great need for better dental care

The results revealed that 59 percent of older adults screened (940 analyzable sample of 1,032 total screened) had impaired dental function, meaning fewer than 20 natural teeth. In total, 25 percent of residents screened had lost all of their natural teeth.

Among patients with at least one natural tooth, 41 percent had untreated decay, 17 percent had plaque and tartar (substantial oral debris), and 32 percent had at least one tooth fractured at or below the gum line (root fragments).

Nearly 40 percent of participants had early treatment needs, which can include tooth decay, dentures that don’t fit properly and other issues that would require care before the participant’s next routine dental visit. An additional 3 percent of those surveyed had urgent treatment needs that would require care in the next 24 to 48 hours, including possible infection and suspicious soft-tissue lesions.

Highlights from the Older Adult Basic Screening survey are available on the Older Adults Oral Health in Minnesota quick facts page. In 2018, you’ll be able to access the full results of the survey on the Minnesota Oral Health Statistics System (MNOHSS).

How those surveyed compare to other older adults in the U.S.

A 2011to 2012 national CDC report found that 19 percent of adults 65 and older had complete tooth loss (edentulism) and 19 percent of older adults in the U.S. had untreated decay.2

According to the Basic Screening Survey for Older Adults, Minnesota’s older adults living in skilled nursing facilities have a higher percentage of complete tooth loss and untreated decay than the general U.S. older adult population. While we expect this group to have more health issues than the general population, this survey still demonstrates the great need for improved oral care for these residents.

Survey limitations and barriers

The 2016 Minnesota survey did not assess access to care, insurance status or type, economic status, or oral care received in the facility. Additionally, the residents’ physical ability to open his or her mouth affected the hygienist’s ability to perform the screening in a small number of cases.

Limited data exists on the oral health of older adults living in skilled nursing facilities in the U.S., meaning additional surveys need to be completed before we can compare Minnesota to other states. The Basic Screening Survey tool used for this survey establishes definitions that allow us to compare our data to other surveys that use this tool. As Minnesota conducts more Basic Screening Survey for Older Adults in skilled nursing facilities, we can track changes and improvements over time.

Turning results into action

Residents of skilled nursing facilities need regular oral health care to maintain or improve their quality of life. Older adults across the U.S. tend to face limited access to care, difficulty paying for dental care and increasing oral health problems.3

Surveys like the Basic Screening Survey for Older Adults provide quality data that help policy makers, health care providers and public health agencies make data-driven decisions. The Healthy People 2020 goal for older adults is to “improve the health, function, and quality of life of older adults.” Specific oral health goals include reducing the number of adults aged 65 and older who have lost all of their natural teeth4 and reducing the number of adults with moderate or severe periodontal (gum) disease.5

Working together, we can ensure we are providing Minnesota’s older adults with the care they need.

1Data by Topic: Aging. MN State Demographic Center. N.p., 22 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Feb. 2017

2Indicator Definitions – Oral Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.

3Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in adults in the United States, 2011-2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 November, 2015. Web.

4Healthy People 2020. Older Adults: Overview. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved from

5Healthy People 2020. Oral Health: Objectives. Retrieved from