Oral Health: An Essential Element of Healthy Aging

Article Index

May 17, 2023: GSA Oral Health Interest Group Meeting 

Hear from Michèle J. Saunders, DMD, MS, MPH, Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Periodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio provide an update on expanding Medicare coverage for medically necessary oral treatment. Samuel Zwetchkenbaum, DDS, MPH, Dental Director, Oral Health Program, at the Rhode Island Department of Health gives an overview of the Association for State and Territorial Dental Directors’ Toolkit of Older Adult Oral Health Resources for Collaboration. Christopher H. Fox, DMD, DScM, Chief Executive Officer at the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (AADOCR), provides insight into their “Meeting within a Meeting” on Aging and Oral Health Research at their latest AADOCR Annual Meeting in March 2023. He also led a discussion on perspectives of other AADOCR meeting attendees, Xi Chen, DDS, PhD, FGSA, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, Elisa M. Ghezzi, DDS, PhD, FGSA, Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Dentistry at the University of Michigan and Bei Wu, PhD, FGSA, Dean’s Chair Professor in Global Health at Rory Meyers College of Nursing New York University. And hear about new GSA resources and activities planned at the upcoming GSA 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting from Stephen Shuman, DDS, MS, FGSA, Professor and Director, Oral Health Services for Older Adults Program, Department of Developmental & Surgical Sciences in the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota.

October 11, 2022: GSA Oral Health Interest Group Meeting 

Hear insights on the publication, Dental Provider and Payer Perceptions of Value Based Oral Health Care, by Eva Lenoir, MPH and S. Eric Wahlstrom, MPH from Discern Health, Part of Real Chemistry. The leaders of the GSA oral health workgroup provide an overview of the recent GSA activities in promoting oral health and older adults. Progress from the “Consortium for Medically Necessary Oral Health Coverage” is shared and events scheduled for the GSA 2022 Annual Scientific Meeting in Indianapolis are previewed.

May 23, 2022: GSA Oral Health Interest Group Meeting 

Hear insights on the NIDCR Report “Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges” from GSA oral health work group members Elisa M. Ghezzi, DDS, PhD, and Bei Wu, PhD, and learn from Christopher H. Fox, DMD, DMSc, Chief Executive Officer, IADR and AADOCR, about the “Aging and Oral Health” meeting within a meeting that is being planned for AADOCR in 2023. Also, hear from Dr. Hana Alberti, Senior Director, Center for Dental Practice Policy, ADA Practice Institute, about their upcoming Eldercare Symposium in August and get an update from Judith Jones, DDS, MPH, DScD, Professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, on activities at the Santa Fe Group. And hear from Karen Tracy, Vice President at GSA, on the oral health initiatives planned at GSA 2022 in Indianapolis!

December 21, 2021: Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges released by the National Institutes of Health

The new report, "Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges," which is intended to provide a road map on how to improve the nation’s oral health, draws primarily on information from public research and evidence-based practices and was compiled and reviewed by NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and a large, diverse, multi-disciplinary team of more than 400 experts, including two GSA fellows and oral health workgroup members, Elisa M. Ghezzi, DDS, PhD and Bei Wu, PhD. Numerous GSA members were also involved as editors or contributing authors. The report updates the findings of the 2000 "Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General" and highlights the national importance of oral health and its relationship to overall health. It also focuses on new scientific and technological knowledge – as well as innovations in health care delivery – that offer promising new directions for improving oral health care and creating greater equity in oral health across communities. Achieving that equity is an ongoing challenge for many who struggle to obtain dental insurance and access to affordable care.  “This is a very significant report,” said NIH Acting Director Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD. “It is the most comprehensive assessment of oral health currently available in the United States and it shows, unequivocally, that oral health plays a central role in overall health. Yet millions of Americans still do not have access to routine and preventative oral care.”  The summary of the report is here.

The newly issued report provides a comprehensive snapshot of oral health in America, including an examination of oral health across the lifespan and a look at the impact the issue has on communities and the economy. There is a special section in the report: Oral Health Across the Lifespan: Working Age and Older Adults with an accompanying fact sheet


oralhealthlogoThe Gerontological Society of America launched an oral health initiative with the goals of enabling older adults to maintain their oral health as part of a healthy aging process and to assist researchers, educators, practitioners, and policymakers to identify areas of needed activity and research on the topic of oral health in older adults.

A key focus of the initiative is advancing the belief that helping older adults maintain good oral health involves oral health professionals and also an interprofessional team of “oral health champions”, including primary care and specialty physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and others who can advocate for, educate about, and provide direct care supporting oral health. 

This multi-faceted initiative is comprised of a variety of interrelated elements including:

  • The Oral Health Workgroup, a team of experts charged with increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of appropriate oral care and strengthening the impact that all members of healthcare and caregiver teams have on ensuring good oral care for older adults. The GSA Workgroup on Oral Health seeks an interprofessional approach to improved oral health for all older adults.
  • The GSA Oral Health Interest Group, providing an opportunity for persons interested in the issue of oral health as an essential element of healthy aging to meet, exchange, information and resources, and make contacts with persons who have similar interests.
  • "Using Quality Tactics to Advance Value-Based Oral Healthcare," a white paper describing the proceedings from the Oral Health Quality Expert Panel. Value-based approaches to oral health care are critical to improving care and outcomes and may be especially beneficial for aging adults.  It may also fundamentally shift the dentist’s role in care delivery.  This report reviews the tactics an expert panel has identified and prioritized to facilitate the change to value-based oral health care and serves as a call to action for all involved in dental care delivery.
  • The disruption in long-term care facilities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have created opportunities for positive long-term changes in this setting, according to a GSA publication titled "Pandemic-Driven Disruptions in Oral Health:10 Transformative Trends in Care for Older Adult." The transformative trends with the potential to improve oral health care for residents is based on two webinars developed by the GSA Oral Health Workgroup and presented by nationally recognized speakers under the theme of “Geriatric Oral Health and COVID-19: Old Problems, New Challenges – Part 1 and Part 2.”
  • The development and publication of the What's Hot newsletter, "Oral Health: An Essential Element of Healthy Aging." Intended for an interprofessional audience, this publication discusses the impact of poor oral health in older adults, relationships between oral health, systemic conditions, functional abilities, and healthy aging, as well as current challenges and potential opportunities in the area of geriatric oral health.
  • The convening of an Oral Health Forum in March 2017 of leading experts and key stakeholders committed to healthy aging to identify solutions and create a roadmap to improving the interprofessional oral health care of older adults. More than 40 participants from industry, government, academia, research, practice, and not-for profit membership organizations attended. Recommendations of the participants were incorporated into the July 2017 white paper (see below).
  • The July 2017 white paper, "Interprofessional Solutions for Improving Oral Health in Older Adults: Addressing Access Barriers, Creating Oral Health Champions," which features the recommendations of the Oral Health Forum participants. The goal of the paper is to improve clinical and other outcomes in older adults by focusing all members of the health care team (medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, and allied health professions) on whole-person, interprofessional care that recognizes the inherent connection between oral and systemic health and is valued in the health care system.
  • A symposium at the IAGG World Congress on July 24, 2017 in which members of the Oral Health Workgroup discussed the White Paper and presented the findings of the Oral Health Forum.
  • Serving on the scientific advisory committee of A State of Decay, Vol IV, 2018.
  • A collection of resources including links to oral health-related organizations and initiatives, publications and presentations, research opportunities and funding. This section will be updated as additional resources are identified. Please help us grow this collection by sending relevant resources to add to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This infographic provides an overview of the GSA Oral Health Initiative.

This program is developed by GSA and supported by Haleon.


GSA Momentum Discussions on Oral Health

The Evolving and Essential Role of Interdisciplinary Care of the Mouth, Ears and Eyes of Older Adults

This Momentum Discussion will address the pivotal topics that are driving changes to management of the mouth, ears, and eyes of older adults. The panel will also address how an interdisciplinary team can be instrumental in providing high quality care.

Presented by:

  • Tricia Neuman, ScD, Senior Vice President, Executive Director, Program on Medicare Policy and Senior Advisor to the President, Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington, DC (Moderator)
  • Frank Robert Lin, MD, PhD, Director, Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Michèle J. Saunders, DMD, MS, MPH, FGSA, Adjunct Professor and Director, South Texas Geriatrics Education Collaborative, Departments of Psychiatry and Periodontics, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), GSA Past President
  • Kira N. Baldonado, MPH, Vice President of Public Health and Policy, Prevent Blindness

Supported by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

Geriatric Oral Health and COVID-19: Old Problems, New Challenges, Parts 1 and 2

In these two Momentum Discussions, panelists will engage participants on how the interprofessional health care team can help older adults and care partners address geriatric oral health issues in the community and long-term care facilities, additional research opportunities that may emerge post-COVID-19, and real-world innovations for improving oral health care for older adults in the COVID-19 era and beyond.

Part 1: Issues and Research Opportunities

Presented by:

  • Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, John A. Hartford Foundation (Impact of COVID-19 on Geriatric Health & Well-being)
  • Leonardo Marchini, DDS, MSD, PhD, University of Iowa (COVID-19 Geriatric Oral Health Issues)
  • Bei Wu, PhD, New York University (Emerging Geriatric Oral Health Research Needs in the COVID-19 Era)
  • Stephen Shuman, DDS, MS, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (Moderator)

Part 2: Case Studies

Presented by:

  • Michael J. Helgeson, DDS, Apple Tree Dental (Successes and Challenges With Teledentistry: Insights From the COVID-19 Pandemic)
  • Jeffrey E. Dodge, DMD (Pearls From the Pandemic: Experiences in Oral Health Practice and Long-Term Care)
  • Samuel Zwetchkenbaum, DDS, MPH (Pearls From the Pandemic: Experiences in Oral Health Practice and Long-Term Care)
  • Stephen Shuman, DDS, MS, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (Moderator)

These webinars are supported by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

Share This Page!

Print Page