About This Project

"Oral health is a critical component of health and must be included in the provision of health care and the design of community programs." Dr. David Satcher, MD, PhD, former Surgeon General of the United States

Historically, medical care and oral health care have been viewed as separate and almost unrelated health care issues, with the result that oral health services all too often have played a secondary role in treating the “entire” person. Today in the United States, however, the realization that oral health is strongly connected to overall health is growing. Addressing oral health needs is a critical step to achieving the triple aim of improved care, improved health, and lower costs per capita.

Although clinicians, policymakers, payers, advocates, and researchers are recognizing the need for oral health care in overall health care, a large gap in care continues to exist among older adults. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) strengthened the availability of oral health coverage for children, but the ACA doesn’t require oral health care coverage for adults despite their greater risk for gum disease, cancer, and other painful oral health conditions.[1] 

"The compartmentalization involved in viewing the mouth separately from the rest of the body must cease because oral health affects general health by causing considerable pain and suffering and by changing what people eat, their speech, and their quality of life and well-being." Dr. Poul Erik Petersen, DDS, Dr Odont, MSc, Chief, Oral Health Program, World Health Organization

The Administration for Community Living’s (ACL) mission is to maximize the independence, wellbeing, and health of older adults, people with disabilities across the lifespan, and their families and caregivers. Because oral health is integral to overall health, ACL is committed to improving the oral health of older adults. In October 2014, with funding from the Office on Women’s Health, ACL entered into a three-year agreement with The Lewin Group to identify and promote vetted, low-cost, community-based oral health programs that have the potential to serve older adults. Ultimately, this project aims to share a searchable database of oral health programs and The Community Guide to Adult Oral Health Program Implementation (Oral Health Guide) with all communities interested in starting or enhancing their own oral health program for underserved older adults.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Oral Health. (2013, July 10). Oral Health for Older Americans. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/adult_oral_health/adult_older.htm