Growing Oral Health Needs

Elders have increasingly complicated dental needs because they retain more of their teeth, yet they still have high levels of disease.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 50% of elders perceive their dental health as poor or very poor.
  • Untreated tooth decay
    • Nearly all adults (96%) aged 65 years or older have had a cavity.
    • 1 in 5 have untreated tooth decay.
  • Gum disease
    • 68% of adults ages 65 years or older have gum disease.
Zurijeta /
Zurijeta /
  • Tooth loss
    • Nearly 1 in 5 of adults aged 65 or older have lost all their teeth.
    • Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults ages 75 and older (26%) compared with adults ages 65-74 (13%).
    • Missing teeth or wearing dentures can affect nutrition.
  • Oral cancer
    • Oral and pharyngeal cancers are most common in older adults.
    • Median age at diagnosis is 62 years.
  • Chronic disease
    • Most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs which can cause dry mouth.
    • Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of cavities.


US Department of Health and Human Services. Oral health in America: a report of the surgeon general. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health; 2000.

Manski, R.J. et al. Dental care coverage and retirement. J Pub Health Dent 2010; 70(1):1-12.

Manski, R.J. et al. Dental care utilization and retirement. J Pub Health Dent 2010; 70(1):67-75.

Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Xianfen L, Iafolla TJ. Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief, no 197. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2015

Eke PI, Dye BA, Wei L, et al. Update on prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States: NHANES 2009 to 2012. J of Periodontology. 2015;86(5):611-622.

National Cancer Institute. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. (N.D.) SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer website. Accessed on 9/20/2021.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. National Institutes of Health. Fact Sheet: Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) website. Accessed on 9/20/2021.