Most LTC residents decline dental care, study concludes

Scannapieco: Low useage rates in LTC reflect a common problem.
Scannapieco: Low useage rates in LTC reflect a common problem.

Almost 90% of long-term care residents do not use available dental care services during their stay, according to recent research from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Investigators analyzed the medical records of more than 2,500 skilled nursing residents discharged from a New York facility between 2008 and 2012. Over that period, just 10% of residents received at least one dental exam during their stay.

For individuals whose stays lasted less than a month, the usage rate for dental care services was 7%. That rate increased to 20% for residents who stayed in the facility between one month and two years. Roughly 55% of residents who stayed longer used dental care services.

A variety of factors, including age, health conditions and medical care receiving priority over dental care play into the relatively low rates. But the research team said their findings reflect a trend among the general population.

“There is a problem within the population as a whole toward appreciation for dental care,” said lead researcher Frank Scannapieco, DMD, Ph.D. “The perception is that if you don't have pain, you don't have a problem.”

Scannapieco suggested that improving residents' attitudes toward dental care may help improve their overall health and quality of life, though further research will be needed into how oral health impacts wellbeing and longevity.

Results appeared in Special Care in Dentistry.