Abstract for: Modeling the Dynamics of Dental Health in Older Adults

As the population of older adults in the United States expands with the aging of the Baby Boom generation, the advantages of developing coordinated and cost effective health policies have become clearer. Co-morbidities between medical and dental health conditions become more prevalent with age. For example, periodontal disease is a risk factor for other chronic illnesses, notably diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Despite this link, medical and dental disorders are rarely screened for and treated as related conditions. Additionally, access to dental care for older adults may be adversely affected by lack of insurance coverage and complex social, cognitive, and physical factors that result in missed opportunities for intervention and prevention of more serious conditions. Developing interventions to improve dental health among older adults is a particular challenge, given the complex set of causal pathways and time delays over the life course that are involved. In this paper, we draw upon the experience of Columbia University’s ElderSmile outreach program to inform construction of a dynamic model as part of a larger research endeavor that explores the intra- and inter-personal relationships relevant to oral health in older adults.