About 45 per cent of people in Ontario age 65 and older did not see a dentist in the last year, which increases their risk of chronic diseases, researchers say.

Poor oral health contributes to serious medical conditions and affects the ability to chew and digest food properly for nutrition, said Dr. Arlene Bierman, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the study’s principal investigator. 

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Many older adults are not visiting dentists regularly. (Dan Cepeda/Casper Star-Tribune/Associated Press)

"With dental services not covered under our universal health-insurance  program and many older adults not visiting dentists regularly, the findings suggest we need to rethink the services we provide to help keep seniors healthy as they age," Bierman said in a release.

The report by St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences is the first in the province to take a comprehensive look at women’s health in relation to income, education, ethnicity and geography.

The authors called for more attention to preventing chronic disease and caring for older women, who make up the majority of the older population in Ontario.

Other findings included:

  • About 60 per cent of older women reported that they were physically inactive compared with 48 per cent of men.
  • Less than 45 per cent of older adults took steps to improve their health in the previous 12 months.
  • Nearly 67 per cent of women aged 80 and older reported functional limitations and more than one in three low-income women reported their activities were limited by pain.
  • Many health-care providers have little training in the care of older adults.

The study was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.