Last week, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held a hearing to discuss the growing dental crisis in America. As the Center recently wrote, most people who rely on Medicare go without basic dental care due to lack of coverage. The Senate hearing revealed dismaying new facts about the state of older Americans' dental health.
A new report shows that more than one quarter of Americans over age 65 have lost all of their teeth. For adults who have retained their teeth thanks to access to dental coverage in their working years, the lack of coverage when they come into Medicare means they go without important basic care needed to maintain their dental health. Experts who testified discussed the lack of coverage for older Americans and the repercussions for overall health and costs, while reiterating over and again that basic primary care prevents adverse health outcomes and expensive treatments in costly settings.
Expanding access and coverage for primary dental care in Medicare is critical to ensuring that older Americans get the care they need to stay healthy, nourished, and avoid more intense and expensive health care. By investing in our future with a dental benefit in Medicare, we can improve the health of older and disabled people while reducing costs in the long-term.
 "Dental Crisis in America: The Need to Expand Access", A Report from Senator Bernard Sanders, Chairman, Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, February 2012, available at http://www.sanders.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/DENTALCRISIS.REPORT.pdf.
 Testimony of Burton Edelstein,