Quick Facts Older Adult Oral Health in Minnesota

Quick facts
Older Adult Oral Health in Minnesota

Dental Service Use

Yearly dental visits are important to maintain healthy gums and teeth, prevent dental disease and identify any treatment needs.

  • 76 percent of Minnesota adults aged 65 and older saw a dentist within the past year. (2016)1
  • 31.4 percent of Minnesota adults over age 55 enrolled in a Minnesota Health Care Program (Medicaid and MNCare) saw a dentist within the year (2016).2
  • Almost 3 in 5 Minnesota older adults (57 percent) aged 65 and older do not have dental insurance (2015).3
  • In 2015, 10 percent of Minnesota older adults aged 65 years and older reported not being able to get needed dental care due to cost (2015).3

Tooth decay and cavities

Tooth decay is the breakdown of tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of the teeth. Cavities are holes in the teeth that form as a result of untreated tooth decay. Acids destroy tooth enamel; there are two main sources:

  • Acidic beverages such as soda, tea and coffee
  • Dental bacteria feeds off sugars and carbohydrates you drink and eat and produce acid

Brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing daily and regular dental cleanings can prevent tooth decay and cavities. Seeing your dentist to treat the decay will prevent further infection and tooth loss.

  • 2 out of every 5 adults aged 65 years and older living in Minnesota nursing homes with at least one natural tooth has untreated tooth decay (2016).4

Tooth loss

Teeth play an important role in speech, eating ability, appearance and quality of life. Studies have found that complete tooth loss (edentulism) is associated with poor nutrition, decreased self-esteem and social isolation.

Leading risk factors for tooth loss include untreated tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, dry mouth, commercial tobacco use, eating or drinking foods and beverages with excess sugar and poor oral hygiene.

Among all Minnesota older adults aged 65 and older:

  • 62.2 percent have had at least one natural tooth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease (2016).1
  • 10.3 percent have had all of their natural teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease (2016).1

Among older adults aged 65 and older living in Minnesota skilled nursing facilities:

  • 65.9 percent have partial tooth loss (2016).4
  • 25.1 percent have complete tooth loss (2016).4

Dentures

Dentures are removable appliances or plates that can replace missing teeth. Dentures can help individuals with tooth loss to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including the ability to speak, eat and socialize, while improving facial appearance, self-esteem and quality of life.
Among older adults aged 65 and older living in Minnesota skilled nursing facilities:

  • 42 percent own dentures (2016).4
  • 3 in 10 older adults with impaired dental function (have fewer than 20 teeth) do not own dentures (2016).4

References

12016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.  Minnesota Department of Health.

22016 Minnesota Health Care Programs Claims by County of Residence.  Minnesota Department of Human Services.

32015 Minnesota Health Access Survey. Minnesota Department of Health, Health Economics Program. 42016 Older Adult Basic Screening Survey. Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program.

42016 Older Adult Basic Screening Survey. Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program.