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Senior Dental Fund

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

$20,000 Senior Dental Fund Created at Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic to Help Older Adults


A great smile and good oral care can be a sign of health. And especially for older adults, a healthy smile can improve well-being by boosting their self-esteem and giving them the confidence to engage socially.


A new dental fund will help local older adults in El Paso and Southern New Mexico maintain their healthy smiles by covering some of the costs of care at the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic.



The Carl C. Anderson and Marie Jo Anderson Charitable Foundation provided a $10,000 grant to establish The Anderson Charitable Foundation Senior Dental Fund. Harold Hahn, chairman of Rocky Mountain Mortgage Co., and his wife, Beth Hahn, generously matched the donation with a $10,000 gift resulting in a total of $20,000 in funding. Adolpho and Debbie Telles, prominent community leaders in El Paso, were also moved by the fund's purpose and contributed $7,000 to further its impact.


The average cost per dental patient ranges from $500-$800, meaning 33 to 53 older adults will receive dental care through the Anderson Charitable Foundation Senior Dental Fund. Adults age 55 and older are eligible to receive services supported by the grant's funds.


"The Foundation is pleased to be involved in this important initiative to offer dental care to older adults in the El Paso area, which will contribute to securing better health outcomes for them," said Cate Sitton, Grants Manager for The Carl C. Anderson and Marie Jo Anderson Charitable Foundation.


Fady F. Faddoul, D.D.S., M.S.D., professor and associate dean of clinical affairs at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, said the importance of good oral health care for older adults can’t be understated.



“It’s important for seniors from both a medical and social standpoint,” Dr. Faddoul said. “When they have good oral health, when they have teeth, they feel good about themselves. They're able to socialize more, rather than be reclusive because they're afraid to smile and go out into the community. Not only do you remove the disease, but you also provide them with confidence, self-esteem and the ability to properly chew and digest.”


Dr. Faddoul added that older adults are vulnerable to oral health problems because there are fewer dental benefits available to them. The numbers of older adults who do not receive dental and oral care is staggering.


One in 5 older adults polled in the University of Michigan National Poll on Aging said they had delayed getting dental care or gone without it in the past two years. The majority said cost or lack of coverage played a role in that decision.


Nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries, 47%, or 24 million people, do not have dental coverage, as of 2019. Almost half of all Medicare beneficiaries did not have a dental visit within the past year (47%), with higher rates among those who are Black (68%) or Hispanic (61%), have low incomes (73%), or who are in fair or poor health (63%), as of 2018, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.


Access to dental care is important for people of all ages. Only 50% of El Paso residents visited a dentist in the past year.



The Anderson Charitable Foundation Senior Dental Fund hit close to home for the Hahn and Telles families as they, like many others, saw their own community and family members experience challenges associated with access to dental care.


Average out-of-pocket spending on dental services among Medicare beneficiaries who had any dental service was $874 in 2018. One in five Medicare beneficiaries (20%) who used dental services spent more than $1,000 out-of-pocket on dental care.


The high out-of-pocket spending on dental services among Medicare beneficiaries highlights the need for support in this area. Fortunately, the Anderson Charitable Foundation and the community have stepped up to address this need.


“We're grateful for the generosity of the Anderson Charitable Foundation and our community, which will help us reach as many of our local seniors as possible,” Dr. Faddoul said.



The Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic offers services such as dentures, partials, crowns, cleanings, extractions, and oral health education to older adults.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, oral health problems in older adults include:

  • Untreated tooth decay. Nearly all adults age 65 or older have had a cavity; 1 in 5 have untreated tooth decay.

  • Gum disease. A high percentage of older adults have gum disease. About 2 in 3 adults age 65 or older have gum disease.

  • Tooth loss. Nearly 1 in 5 of adults age 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults age 75 and older compared with adults age 65 to 74. Having missing teeth or wearing dentures can affect nutrition, because people without teeth or with dentures often prefer soft, easily chewed foods instead of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Oral cancer. Cancers of the mouth (oral and pharyngeal cancers) are primarily diagnosed in older adults; median age at diagnosis is 62 years.

  • Chronic disease. People with chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more likely to develop gum disease, but they’re less likely to get dental care than adults without these conditions. Also, most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs; many of these medications can cause dry mouth. Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of cavities.


As part of efforts to improve the accessibility of oral health care in the community, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine offers reduced-cost dental care in the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic. Since the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic opened in 2021, students and staff have treated 1,500 patients in the clinic, providing over 7,100 hours of clinical care.


Since its inception in 2003, the Carl C. Anderson Sr. and Marie Jo Anderson Charitable Foundation has invested more than $50 million in nonprofit organizations in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas to assist them in serving the most vulnerable with a focus on children and youth, seniors and people with disabilities.


 
 

YOU CAN HELP


At TTUHSC El Paso, we are committed to growing our own health care heroes and changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how you can help, please contact andrea.tawney@ttuhsc.edu or craig.holden@ttuhsc.edu or visit ttuhscep.edu/elpaso/ia/giving/.

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