Oral health is a critical but often overlooked component of health and well-being in older Americans. Compared to younger individuals, elderly people have an increased incidence and prevalence of oral diseases. Little is known about the patterns of oral health changes in late life at either the population or the individual level. In addition, few studies have examined factors, such as cognitive function, that may be associated with oral health changes. This study has the following specific aims: (1) examine and project racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in oral health trends among older Americans;(2) examine the intra- and inter-individual differences of change in oral health among older adults;(3) cross-sectionally analyze the relationship between cognitive function and oral health;and (4) assess the linkage between cognitive function and oral health among older adults by conducting longitudinal data analysis. This proposed research is innovative in several respects: 1) state-of-the-art analytic approach to analyses on population trends and projections, and individual trajectories of oral health;2) examination of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in oral health trends and trajectories;3) focus on individuals with a range of cognitive function (from individuals with potential dementia to cognitively normal);4) examination of the linkage between cognitive function and oral health while controlling for other important covariates;and 5) use of multiple well-established datasets, including nationally and regionally representative samples, that are longitudinal or cross-sectional in nature, to compare and confirm the patterns and predictors of oral health across the various datasets. We expect our study to lead to a better understanding of the mechanism underlying oral health deterioration and its risk factors. And, in turn, our study may suggest strategies for effective and innovative practices to prevent oral health deterioration. As secondary data will be used, the proposed study is a very cost-effective way to accomplish our objectives.
Relevant to Public Health The growing number and proportion of the older adults in the U.S. makes geriatric oral health an increasingly important public health issue that this study will address. This study will lead to the development of effective prevention and intervention strategies.
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