Barriers in Accessing Dental Care for Rural Iowa Seniors
There are a lot of reasons people avoid going to the dentist. For some people it’s the cost of a visit or a lack of dental insurance. For others it’s not being able to get to the dentist because they are homebound or simply live too far away from a dental care provider. Sometimes people will even avoid going to the dentist because of severe dental anxiety (Chi 2019). Although there are many barriers in accessing dental care for young people, the senior population often experiences different barriers than their younger counterparts. Additionally, being a senior living in a rural area presents unique challenges in accessing dental care (Allison et al. 2007). Being a rural resident in Iowa is often accompanied with many challenges that are not typically known to residents of suburban or urban Iowa areas. These challenges often include long commutes to the grocery store or workplace, unreliable internet connection, or trouble finding a local dentist (Bush et al. 2010). For senior Iowans living in rural areas, these challenges are often magnified. One study found that rural residents were less likely to report a dental visit in the past year compared to urban residents (Vargas et al. 2002). This may have been because of the distance to a dental office, financial barriers, transportation issues, or a multitude of other reasons. In a study of rural seniors living in Australia, it was found that most of the rural seniors only went to the dentist for emergency cases such as having extreme pain, gum problems, loose teeth, or missing teeth (Kruger et al. 2007). What many seniors do not realize is that preventative care is often more important and effective than only receiving emergency care. A long-term lack of proper oral health care negatively affects senior’s quality of life including tasks related to chewing, speaking, and swallowing (Dhama et al. 2017).
To date, there has been minimal research looking at barriers to dental care for rural Iowa seniors. The following project aims to identify potential barriers for rural Iowa seniors in accessing dental care and promote the need for further research on the topic.