Elderly Mississippians are experiencing severe tooth loss at a rate higher than anywhere else in the country, according to a recent oral health study. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.
Mississippi scores zero in the overall oral health of its elderly population. More than half of adults over 65 have lost six or more of their teeth, according to a report called A State of Decay. The state-by-state analysis shows only 52 percent of elderly Mississippians have seen a dentist in the last 12 months- the lowest percentage in the country.
Dr. David Felton is the Dean of the School of Dentistry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He says for many elders, a lack of dental coverage prevents access to care.
"Medicaid does not provide any preventive care, doesn't provide any restorative care, it's really just an emergent type care situation in Mississippi. I mean the only option is get to the point where it hurts and get the tooth extracted," said Felton
Dr. Sherry Gwin is the President of the Mississippi Dental Association. She says another barrier is the number of dentists willing to take Medicaid patients.
"The reimbursement rates so low that dentists can't even break even when if they treat a Medicaid patient. They can't go out into practice and treat just Medicaid patients because they have to make a profit to pay back their loans, their mortgage and everything," said Gwin.
Felton says it is important to see a dentist at least every 6 months and practice dental care at home. If not, he says you risk other illnesses.
"There is a higher incidence of diabetes, a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, just a whole host of other systemic conditions that are related to poor oral health," said Fulton.
A State of Decay full report is available online at OralHealthAmerica.org. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.