Good Oral Health for Life Blog: What's Stopping You?

What is Stopping You from Getting Dental Services? “Oral Health Obstacles”
With evidence that keeping the mouth clean on a daily basis combined with regular professional dental services has so many benefits, why is there still so much dental disease with related whole body health issues afflicting the people of Georgia? Contemplate the many reasons a person may choose NOT to engage in dental services to manage their oral health status. 
Barriers to dental care services

Cost: 

  • Average cost for initial dental examination, x-rays, and cleaning averages $59-$300, depending on the dental practice.  
    • Living on a fixed income when aging in place or receiving only $50/month if on Medicaid in an LTC makes dental services cost-prohibitive.  

Lack of Access to dental services: 

  • Of the 159 counties in Georgia, 114 rural counties are considered to be Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA)
  • 16 counties have no dentists
  • Mobile dentistry exists, but does not reach the majority of seniors in this state

Transportation: 

  • Seniors that do not drive rely on available transportation systems
  • Distance to dental services may exceed 35 miles
  • Dependent seniors with cognitive or physical issues may have difficulty in being moved from LTC setting or home to receive services

Value:

  • Do not consider mouth care a priority
  • Think that tooth loss is unavoidable in older adults
  • Do not believe in regular dental care because they believe their mouth is healthy

Fear and anxiety:

  • Afraid of pain
  • Nervous about possible presence of disease, cavities, oral cancer, or need for restorative dental services

To find resources for transportation options that may be available for you, go to the Georgia Coalition on Aging (CO-AGE) to review helpful links https://www.gcoa.org/resources/ 
Find your local Area on Aging at https://aging.georgia.gov/local-area-agencies-aging-aaas

Next Week: What resources are available to help me get dental services in Georgia?
 

Pam Cushenan, MS TDEV, RDH, ATI, Is a licensed practitioner of dental hygiene since 1987 and the CEO and founder of SOFT Smiles, LLC in 2006. After many years of working with older adults and cognitively impaired patients, she developed the SOFT SmilesTM training program for caregivers of aging special needs patients. Pam has devoted much time and energy to developing resources and reaching an ever-growing number of caregivers across Georgia. She conducts education and training courses for families, care providers, and health professionals to provide them with the latest information in addressing the needs of this special population. In addition, she makes time to provide preventive oral care services to elders in long-term care settings.

In 2005, she joined the faculty of Georgia State University Perimeter College, Dunwoody as a full-time educator in the dental hygiene program. To date, a number of her articles have been published in oral health columns for the Alzheimer’s Association Magazine, RDH, Modern Hygienist, the Sunstar Dental Hygiene Newsletter, and Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. Today, she works tirelessly to combine her training techniques and educational methods to benefit students, professional and family caregivers, and functionally independent seniors in presentations and workshops across the country.