Just before the pandemic…
In late 2019, a survey of American seniors concluded the following:
while almost all U.S. adults age 65–80 recognize that oral health is important for overall health, more than one in four reported getting dental care only when they had problems or not at all, and one in five reported recent dental problems.
Just before the pandemic, moreover, there was growing momentum to integrate oral healthcare into medical care under the US Medicare plan. Tentative steps to integration were also being taken in Ontario.
But what now? The likelihood of Seniors purchasing oral healthcare services has diminished under a mountain of public debt, under a widespread anxiety of sitting in any waiting room, and behind far more PPE (read more cost and more anxiety).
So while Seniors consider oral healthcare as important as medical care, the chances of them getting it have diminished.
Ultimately, this means more use of medical services and hospitalization, as reported by several American healthcare insurers. Aetna, for one, says that adults with poor oral health spend 17% more on healthcare services than their peers with good oral health.
The pandemic has changed how we look at healthcare, and in particular, long-term care. While resources are more scarce than ever, new thinking and new models of integrating oral healthcare into medical care needs to resume and take new paths.