Faculty Articles


Older Adults-Implications for Private Dental Practitioners



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Journal of the California Dental Association



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Currently, 35 million people are over the age of 65 in the United States. This number is expected to double to 70 million by 2030 (Figure 1). In California, 3.7 million people are over the age of 65, and this number is expected to increase to 6.4 million in the next 20 years or within the practice lifetime of students presently enrolled in California's dental hygiene and dental schools. The oldest old, those over age 85, are the fastest-growing segment of the United States and California's population. California's aging population will reflect the diversity of the state in general. Table 1 lists California's 65-plus population by age and ethnic/racial categories. By 2030, one in five Americans and Californians will be 65 years or older. Women who reach age 65 can expect to live an additional 19 years of life, while men can expect to live an additional 16 years. The gap in life expectancy between men and women is narrowing due to improvements in medical care, preventive health services, and healthier lifestyles. Figures 2-4 show the improvements in life expectancy at birth, age 65, and age 75 for the U.S. population. In the United States, there are an estimated 1.8 million nursing home beds used by 80 percent of the residents over age 65. A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that 43 percent of all Americans over age 65 will reside in a nursing home at some time in their life. California currently has approximately 100,000 residents living in one of the 1503 nursing home facilities throughout the state. Nursing home care in California accounts for 5.6 billion dollars. In 1998, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that one in three California nursing homes was cited for serious or potentially life-threatening care problems. With an aging imperative in California, this paper will discuss the implications of an aging society on maintaining oral health throughout one's life, and the ability of dental professionals to meet the oral health needs of this population.



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