The oral health of older Americans is in a state of decay, and New Jersey residents are worse off than others, according to a report from Oral Health America.

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Considering five major factors – edentulism (loss of teeth), adult Medicaid dental benefits, inclusion of older adult strategies in state oral health plans, dental health professional supply, and community water fluoridation – New Jersey scored a 52.1 out of a possible 100. Among all 50 states, New Jersey ranked in the middle of the pack.

The state received its lowest scores for fluoridation and state oral health plans.

According to the report, less than 60 percent of New Jersey residents are receiving fluoridated water. It’s less of a concern for the current older population, but adequate fluoridation ensures the younger generation will have lower decay rates.

“A healthy mouth is essential if a person is going to be healthy,” said Dr. Ira Lamster with the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “It’s not as if the mouth is isolated from the body.”

Mailman noted an infection in the mouth can lead to life-threatening health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

The state also scored low for its strained work force in the dental health field, but New Jersey received high marks for access to dental insurance and the fact that less than 15 percent of older adults are losing their natural teeth.

“While we are seeing improvements in certain areas of older adult dental care, there is still a lack of progress in advancing the oral health of such a vulnerable population,” Dr. Lamster said of the overall study. “Older adults face significant health challenges if their oral health is poor, and there is no coordinated program to help fund necessary services.”

The report stated 10,000 Americans retire daily, and only 2 percent do so with a dental benefit plan.