The oral health of vulnerable older adults and persons with disabilities

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Abstract

Demographic trends in the United States show that the number of people with one or more disabilities is going to increase dramatically over the coming decades. This paper describes the types of disabilities that make up this increase and documents growth of this population over the next 40 years. Dental care market forces are defined and analyzed as they will influence the ability of vulnerable elders and people with disabilities to purchase dental care. The capacity of the dental profession to deliver appropriate high quality dental services to vulnerable elders and people with disabilities is also discussed. Dental disease trends are presented along with a description of the changing living arrangements characterized by the newly termed “senior industry.” The paper concludes with the disquieting conclusion that the need for dental care among vulnerable elders and people with disabilities will dramatically increase while the capacity of the dental profession will not keep up with the expanding need and demand for dental case across the entire U.S. population. Thus, disparities in oral health and access to dental care are likely to occur for vulnerable able older adults and persons with disabilities.

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