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Oral health and access to dental care among older homeless adults: results from the HOPE HOME study.



To describe the prevalence of and factors associated with oral health measures in a sample of older homeless adults in Oakland, CA.


We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from a population-based study of 350 homeless adults aged ≥50 in which trained researchers conducted structured interviews using validated questions regarding sociodemographics, health-related behaviors, healthcare utilization, and health status. We assessed self-reported tooth loss, oral pain, and unmet need for dental care. We used multivariable logistic regression to examine factors associated with missing half or more teeth.


Over half 201/350 (57.4 percent) of participants were missing at least half of their teeth. Half 191/350 (54.6 percent) reported oral pain in the past 6 months; 101/350 (28.9 percent) reported that oral pain prevented them from eating and 73/350 (20.9 percent) reported that pain prevented sleeping. Almost half, 141/350 (40.3 percent), had not seen a dentist in over 5 years, and over half 190/350 (54.3 percent) reported being unable to obtain needed dental care. In multivariate models, increased age (AOR = 1.09, 95 percent CI 1.04-1.14), moderate-to-high risk alcohol use (AOR = 2.17, CI = 1.23-3.84), moderate-to-high risk cocaine use (AOR = 1.72, CI = 1.03-2.88), and ever smoking (AOR = 2.87, CI = 1.59-5.18) were associated with an increased odds of having lost half or more teeth.


Tooth loss and oral pain are highly prevalent in older homeless adults. Increasing age, alcohol, drug, and tobacco use are associated with tooth loss.

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