The health and overall well-being of seniors can be improved with regular dental services. In many circumstances, ignoring oral care can lead to the development of oral diseases, tooth loss, infection, and if left untreated, death.

The Alliance for Aging Research hosted a Capitol Hill briefing in December of 2007 that focused on geriatric oral health care. The briefing, part of our Diseases in the Shadows series, was widely attended by Congressional staffers and other health advocates. Dr. Barbara Smith of the American Dental Association gave a presentation on the importance of geriatric oral health and why it is crucial that policymakers work to ensure that America’s seniors have access to quality dental care.

Given the scope of this problem and our involvement in raising awareness about this issue, the Alliance for Aging Research enthusiastically endorsed the “Medicare Medically Necessary Dental Care Act of 2009”. The bill, sponsored in the House of Representatives by Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-9), would expand coverage for medically necessary dental procedures under Medicare Part B. There is currently very limited government funding for dental procedures causing many seniors to bear the costs out of pocket. For this reason, as many as 25 million adults forego routine and necessary dental care each year. This bill would provide necessary dental services to those individuals who will benefit from them the most.

This post was written by Valerie Hagan, former Health Programs Coordinator at the Alliance.