A reason to smile

Did you know that older people are more likely to contract severe oral disease and lose their teeth, gums and bone?

That’s why the prospect of an Australian-developed vaccine is raising big smiles across the community.

New vaccine research offers hope for gum disease problem

The federal government has provided $14 million for a pioneering project through the Biomedical Translation Fund to treat gum disease.

Severe oral disease is a world-wide health problem linked to many health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “The successful development of this vaccine would assist millions of people around the world.”

Dental decline with age

Older people (65-plus) are more likely to lose their teeth, according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report (AIHW 2013).

Nearly 20 per cent had no teeth:

  • people without insurance were most likely to have missing teeth
  • tooth decay was the main reason for teeth extraction.

Nearly 24 per cent avoided eating certain foods because of dental issues.

Older people are more at risk of severe gum disease. AIHW says this may be due to the accumulation of risk factors and longer-term exposure to periodontal (gum disease) bacteria. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and heart disease all increase the risk of periodontitis, and the length of time a person is exposed to periodontal bacteria may increase the severity of the disease.

Incredibly, the last National Survey of Adult Oral Health 2004–2006 showed that 53.4% of people aged 65 and over had gum disease, compared with 2.7% of people aged 15–24.

In 2013–14, dental conditions were responsible for more than 8,000 hospital visits for people aged 65 and over, with the hospitalisation considered potentially preventable.

Campaign for an adult dental program

National Seniors welcomes the vaccine funding but continues to call on the government to provide a subsidised dental program for seniors.

Find out more about our recommendation and join our Fix Pension Poverty campaign today.

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