A State of Decay Report Underscores Need for Advocacy, Community Engagement in Virginia

Oral Health America’s (OHA) national report A State of Decay, Vol. IV examines key indicators that impact the oral health of older adults in all states.  Virginia narrowly earned a “Good” rating with a 70% score, putting us 11th in the nation for our efforts to improve oral health in seniors.  With 1.35 million seniors living in Virginia (16% of our total population), this report illustrates Virginia’s progress and identifies a need for continued action to ensure America’s rapidly growing older population ages healthily and independently.

Key Findings for Virginia

Comprehensive Adult Medicaid Dental Benefit.  Virginia Medicaid does not offer comprehensive dental benefits to seniors.  The OHA report highlights a comprehensive adult Medicaid dental benefit as an important policy recommendation to ensure seniors have dental coverage.

What does the data show?

  • Approximately 130,000 Virginia seniors are currently enrolled in Medicaid. 
  • 54% of older adults cited dental care as their most frequent unmet need, second only to transportation. Medicare does not provide any dental coverage. 
  • A recent study showed one Virginia skilled nursing center saved $1.93 million dollars in 13 months through tooth brushing, which prevented costly and dangerous pneumonia.

How is Virginia working to improve Medicaid dental benefits for seniors?

  • 95% of Medicaid enrollees who are over 65 are also enrolled in Medicare.  The Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus (CCC+) program offers added benefits at no additional cost, like dental cleanings and vision, to seniors and others who are dually-enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Several communities in Virginia lead regional work groups, with support from the Virginia Oral Health Coalition (VaOHC), to explore oral health for older adults and lead oral health improvements for local seniors.
  • VaOHC continues to advocate for comprehensive adult Medicaid dental benefits.  View these talking points and reach out to your legislators in support of this issue.  

Community Water Fluoridation.  Optimally-fluoridated water can reduce tooth decay by as much as 25% over a person’s lifetime.  Fluoridation works to prevent decay on the exposed root surfaces of the teeth – a condition that especially affects seniors.  95.9% of Virginians receive fluoridated water from their community water system, which puts us 8th in the nation.  As threats to community water fluoridation rise, VaOHC and our partners are working to monitor and engage localities to ensure we maintain or grow this number in the coming years.

How You Can Get Involved

Samantha Dorr