Thunder Bay

Dental health needs of seniors examined in new survey by Thunder Bay public health unit

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is inviting people aged 65 and older, living in the northwestern Ontario city and surrounding area, to participate in a new study examining their dental health care needs and any problems they face in accessing that care.

Short, anonymous survey open to people 65 and older; available online and at public health offices

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit has launched a survey to determine the health needs of seniors in the region. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC )

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is inviting people aged 65 and older, living in the northwestern Ontario city and surrounding area, to participate in a new study examining their dental health care needs and any problems they face in accessing that care. 

"Dental health is very important at any stage of your life, and seniors often don't have the dental insurance and benefits that other populations may have," said Adena Miller, a health promotions planner with the unit.

"Their needs for dental health care will often increase due to changes in their mouth, associated with aging."

Research shows older people often have fewer teeth and are more likely to need dentures or implants, she said. Studies also suggest seniors have higher rates of cavities and require more root canals and other complex dental procedures.

'Difficulty swallowing, difficulty eating'

Adena Miller, a health promotions planner, says the Thunder Bay District Health Unit Seniors' Dental Health Survey will gather valuable information about the dental health care needs of older people in northwestern Ontario. (Thunder Bay District Health Unit)

"If dental health needs aren't met, different issues can happen like difficulty swallowing, difficulty eating, infection and many other difficulties with normal, daily activities like eating, which we know is very important," said Miller.

"If these issues are left unattended, they can get pretty significant."

In April, the provincial government announced it would invest in a dental health program for low-income seniors, with Ontario's public health units potentially acting as the service providers.

Results from the Thunder Bay District Health Unit Seniors' Dental Health Survey will help guide the planning of the seniors' dental health program and determine the services that should be available in the region, said Miller.

Participants will be entered into a draw for their chance to win one of four $50 gift cards to their local grocery store.

The short, anonymous, 20-question survey is available in hard copy form at public health unit offices and public libraries in the Thunder Bay district, as well as being offered online. It is open until July 31, 2019.

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