Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Community Health Promotion (PhD)

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Leah Jean Henry

Committee Member

Dean Richard Gorman

Second Committee Member

Bart Hammig

Third Committee Member

Susan Kane Patton


Dental, Older Adults, Oral Health, Seniors


The life expectancy of the U. S. population is increasing. The advantages of fluoridated water, dental insurance, greater awareness of preventive oral healthcare measures, and more restorative dental services, have helped this generation of adults maintain their teeth into their advanced years. The demand for oral health care services will be greater and more complex that of previous generations. Challenges for the older adult, and the healthcare system providing for them, are complex. Increasing evidence of a link between oral health and overall health underscores the need to promote public health awareness of the need for dental care to be part of overall health care. Understanding the attitudes, expectations, intentions, and current level of oral and overall health knowledge, is vital to helping these individuals’ transition into increasing levels of dependency with dignity and a high level of oral health related quality of life.

This study used a qualitative approach to better understand these issues from the perspective of the older adult. A purposeful sample of 26 independent living adults age 65 and older in Northwest Arkansas was selected for this investigation. Semi structured interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using constant comparative thematic analysis typical of qualitative methods to code, categorize, and develop themes.

Results revealed the emergence of five themes: 1) Difficulties accessing dental care, 2) Stoic independence, 3) Taking care of your mouth as part of overall health, 4) Relationships affecting oral health related quality of life, and 5) Supporting roles.

Conclusions reveal a need to increase oral health literacy of the older adult population with attention to reducing the modifiable risk factors associated with dental diseases. Additionally, there is a need to reevaluate public policy related to providing dental services in both the private and public sector.