Oral Health and Older Adults

Author: June Sadowsky, DDS, MPH, Laura Niles, MPH, & Kathleen Murphy, PhD, MS

Key Points

Good oral health is critically important for older adults.

Epidemiology studies have found a strong association between Periodontal Disease and cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke and in the dependent elderly with aspiration pneumonia (Beck & Offenbacher, 2001); Genco, Offenbacher, & Beck, 2002; Jerpenning, 2005). 

Individuals living with chronic disease and having poor functional abilities are at a greater risk of having poor oral health. This can serve as a comorbid condition, impacting overall health (Boehm & Scannapeco, 2007).



Major oral health risks in older adults include:

Peterson Approach to Common Risk Factors

oral health image


Dental Community

It is imperative that the dental community work to overcome barriers preventing older adults seeking oral health care. Designing or redesigning dental offices to meet the specific needs of an aging population, such as:



Preventative dental care is crucial to reduce the risk of decay and disease in older adults.


Maintenance Care

Regular consistent dental health care is imperative. Barriers that prevent older adults from seeking long term dental health care include:


Internet Video Education Resources

  1. Oral Care for Older adults – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVsMmppYXrl
  2. Elderly Oral Care - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTDsJyqpjZc
  3. Ask the Geriatrician – Daily Oral Care for the Frail Elderly – www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRZ6oVb6zGc



Beck, J.D. & Offenbacher, S. (2001). The association between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease: A state of the science review. Annals of Periodontal Disease, 16(1), 9-15. 

Boehm, J.K. & Scannapeco, F. A. (2007). The epidemiology, consequences and management of periodontal disease in older adults. Journal of the American Dental Association; 138( 9 Supplement), 26S-33S. 

Genco, R, Offenbacher, S., & Beck, J. (2002). Periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease: Epidemiology and possible mechanisms. Journal of American Dental Association, 133 (supplement), 14S-22S. 

Hung, H.C., Willett, W., Merchant, A., et al. (2003). Oral health and peripheral arterial disease. Circulation, 107, 1152-1157.

Rose, L.F., Mealey, B., Minsk, L., & Cohen, W. (2002). Oral care for patients with cardiovascular disease and stroke. Journal of the American Dental Association, 133, 37S-44S.

Petersen, P. E., & Yamamoto, T. (2005). Improving the oral health of older people: The approach of the WHO Global Oral Health Programme. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 33(2), 81-92.

Scannapieco, F.A. (1998). Periodontal disease as a potential risk factor for systemic diseases. Journal of Periodontology, 69(7), 841-50.

Terpenning, M. (2005). Geriatric Oral Health and Pneumonia Risk. Aging and Infectious Disease, 40, 1807-1810.

Terpenning, M., & Shay, K. (2002). Oral health is cost-effective to maintain but costly to ignore. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 50(3), 584-585.