Letter: Protect seniors’ smiles

Karlene Ketola
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Michigan’s population, already ninth oldest in the U.S., continues to trend upward when it comes to median age.

During our ongoing discussions about these issues, it is important to remember the importance of good oral health care.

In fact, many states, including Michigan, have created coalitions of stakeholders in aging, oral health and public health to devise specific strategies to address the oral health needs of older adults in their states.

To date, our work is helping keep Michigan’s senior population strong. Recently, a major state-by-state analysis was released highlighting our progress in areas such as community water fluoridation, expansion of adult Medicaid dental benefits, completion of basic screening surveys and state oral health plans — and we scored in the top 10 of all states in the U.S.

Just because our state is doing relatively well compared to its peers does not mean we don’t have a long way to go.

Federal and state policies are needed to address the underlying, systemic variables that prohibit older adults from achieving good oral health outcomes.

Our coalition offers the following recommendations:

■Increase coverage for Michigan residents by improving payments for Michigan providers.

■Improve integration between medical and dental care providers.

■Increase fluoridation across the state.

■Improve oral health literacy and understanding.

■Increasing access to oral health care for at-risk communities.

Our recommendations are common-sense, home grown, and ready to work.

Karlene Ketola, executive director

Michigan Oral Health Coalition

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