Programs and Initiatives in Communities – Older Adult Basic Screening Survey

Data Projects
Older Adult Basic Screening Survey

Understanding and addressing the oral health of Minnesota’s aging population

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 aged 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 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).

Dental hygienists conducted an open-mouth assessment on residents at 30 randomly-selected Medical Assistance (MA) eligible long-term care facilities in Minnesota.

Survey results reveal a great need for better care

The results revealed that 62 percent of the 944 older adults screened had 19 or fewer natural teeth (out of 28 to 32 possible teeth). In total, 27 percent of residents screened had lost all of their natural teeth.

Among patients with at least one natural tooth, 40 percent had untreated decay, 17 percent had substantial oral debris (hard or soft material on teeth) and 30 percent had at least one root fragment (broken tooth).

Nearly 39 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.

In 2017, you’ll be able to access the complete data set online.

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

According to the CDC, functional dentition – having 20 of the possible 28-32 teeth – means a person can eat, speak, and socialize without pain, discomfort or the need for dentures.2 A 2011-2012 national CDC report found that 19 percent of adults 65 and older had edentulism (complete tooth loss) and 19 percent of older adults in the U.S. had untreated decay.

According to the Older Adult BSS survey, Minnesota’s older adults living in long-term care facilities have more complete tooth loss and more 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.

Turning results into action

Residents of long-term care 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 Older Adult BSS 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 periodontitis.5

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

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 long-term care 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 Older Adult Basic Screening Surveys in long-term care facilities, we can track changes and improvements over time.

Additional Resources

Learn more about oral health in older adults by accessing the following resources:

Oral Health America

Tooth Wisdom

Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation

Minnesota Board on Aging

Minnesota Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Minnesota Department of Human Services: Seniors

CDC Oral Health

CDC Healthy Aging

American Dental Association

Mouth Healthy

Aging and Dental Health

National Institute on Aging

Citations:
  1. Data by Topic: Aging. MN State Demographic Center. N.p., 22 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Feb. 2017
  2. Indicator Definitions – Oral Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
  3. Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in adults in the United States, 2011-2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 November, 2015. Web.
  4. Healthy People 2020. Older Adults: Overview. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/older-adults.
  5. Healthy People 2020. Oral Health: Objectives. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/oral-health/objectives.