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Keywords:

  • aged;
  • oral health;
  • disabilities;
  • community-dwelling

Objectives:  To present descriptive information on oral health and health care of community-dwelling elderly persons with disabilities who are living at home.

Background:  Most previous studies have focused on specific subpopulations, namely, persons who are essentially healthy and independent, are homebound, or are nursing home residents. Little information appears to be available on community-residing elderly persons with disabilities.

Materials and methods:  A total of 641 participants aged 65 years and over in a Medicare Demonstration who were cognitively intact, completed an oral health questionnaire within 1 year of Demonstration entry. Demonstration participants were required to be living in the community, need or receive help with 2+ activities of daily living (ADLs) or 3+ instrumental ADLs (IADLs), and have recently experienced significant health services utilisation.

Results:  Subject mean age was 79.1 years, 73.8% were female, and 4% were minority. They were dependent in a mean of 1.8 ADLs and 2.9 IADLs. 43.1% reported that they had no natural teeth, 77.4% had dentures, 58.8% frequently felt their mouth was dry, 5.2% had jaw pain now and 6.1% had at some time experienced burning sensations in their mouth or tongue. 40.4% reported that they were currently in need of dental treatment, although 56.2% indicated they now had a dentist, and 42.1% identified having a dental visit within the past 12 months. 19.7% indicated some dental insurance coverage.

Conclusion:  This is one of the first studies to focus on community-dwelling elderly people with disabilities. Substantial oral health morbidity was reported.