Health Policy

Predictors of having a dentist among older adults in Iowa

Marchini, L.; Reynolds, J.C.; Caplan, D.J.; Sasser, S.; Russell, C.
Oct-02-2020

Abstract

Objectives

Oral health plays an important role in the general well-being of older adults, yet older adults experience unique barriers to dental care. In the United States, almost two-thirds of older adults are dentally uninsured - a reflection of the exclusion of dental benefits from Medicare. The aim of this study was to investigate potential predictors of having a dentist among older adults receiving services funded through the Iowa Department on Aging (IDA).

Methods

This was a cross-sectional analysis on a convenience sample (n = 2692) of adults age 65+ who completed a required survey to determine eligibility to receive services from the IDA. Data from questionnaires completed between March and December 2017 were used to generate multivariable logistic regression models that identified predictors of having a dentist. The dependent variable, having a dentist, was gathered by self-report in the survey. Explanatory variables eligible for inclusion in the models included demographic and geographic factors, indicators of access to dental care, and factors related to activities of daily living.

Results

Fewer than half (46.2%) of the respondents reported having a dentist. In the final regression model, individuals with dental insurance were more than twice as likely to have a dentist than those without insurance. Conversely, individuals with a tooth/mouth problem and who need help with housekeeping and with transportation were significantly less likely to have a dentist than their counterparts.

Conclusions

These results align with known insurance-related barriers and identify certain activities of daily living that might influence older adults' ability to access care. The finding that individuals with oral health problems were less likely to have a dentist underscores the need to reduce barriers to care for this population.