1. The pattern of developing oral functional disabilities and their underlying causation should be determined, and longitudinal studies of the natural history and microbiology of oral diseases should be conducted.

  2. Investigations should continue to elucidate and characterize oral changes associated with "normal aging" and to assess their impact on oral function.

  3. The relationship of systemic conditions, medications, and orofacial conditions in older adults should be explored.

  4. Studies should be performed to investigate the lifelong effects of fluorides on dental caries in older adults.

  5. The utilization of dental services by the elderly (both dentate and edentulous) should be assessed.

  6. Methods/measures should be developed to identify older individuals at high risk for oral functional disabilities.

  7. Acceptable definitions of quality of life outcome measures should be established, including a definition of functional dentition.

  8. New methods of oral health care delivery for older adults should be developed, evaluated, and demonstrated. These innovations should include the delivery of services within the existing health care system or through alternate settings.

Public Policy

  1. The use of preventive and early oral health diagnostic services should be encouraged through public- and private-sector incentives to expand and extend dental benefits to the retired population and through incentives for dental professionals to provide care to compromised older adults outside traditional dental care settings (e.g., long-term care facilities, mobile vans, portable equipment, institutions).

  2. Within 30 days of entry into an institution, individuals should receive an oral examination and any required urgent care services. Annual oral examinations should be performed as needed.

  3. Policies should be promoted to provide preventive services for currently underserved older adults.

Education

  1. Educational efforts promoting cessation of tobacco and alcohol use should be increased.

  2. Self-assessment instruments should be developed and tested to assist individual older adults and auxiliary health care professionals to learn the signs and symptoms of oral diseases.



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