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HPI: Unmet dental needs falling for children, rising for low-income adults, seniors

September 27, 2016

Unmet dental needs are falling among children, but rising among low-income adults and seniors, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute.

In analyzing data from past National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, HPI researchers found that the untreated caries rates dropped to 25 percent in 2011-14 for low-income children, down from 39 percent in 1988-94 and 33 percent in 1999-2004.

By contrast, untreated caries rates for low-income seniors was at 42 percent in 2011-14, up from 31 percent in 1999-2004. In those same years, the untreated caries rates for low-income adults increased to 48 percent, up from 42 percent.

“The increase in unmet needs among low-income adults and seniors represent a reversal in trends,” said HPI in its e-newsletter, and “the improvement among children, including dramatic improvement for low-income children, are a continuation of trends.”

HPI said it chose the survey years based on the “consistent methodology” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used to collect data, which included gathering research from personal interviews and by conducting physical exams.

In a second analysis based on oral health and well-being data collected by HPI, researchers found that while 72 percent of all seniors consider the overall condition their mouths and teeth as “good” or “very good,” low-income seniors are more likely to report having difficulty chewing and experiencing pain. And 49 percent of all seniors say the number one reason they haven’t seen a dentist in the last year is cost.