After 20 years of caring for families at Pueblo Community Health Center, Dr. Rona Knudsen embraces her role as InnovAge PACE’s Center Medical Director, helping vulnerable older adults in the community. <br />
PACE Fills the Gap: Dental Coverage
March 01, 2022
|This post was medically reviewed by Ann Wells, M.D.|
“I really enjoy working with seniors,” says dental
hygienist Laura Perez, who loves the all-inclusive
nature of PACE.
After learning about InnovAge and its compassionate work with seniors, Laura joined InnovAge’s Inland Empire facility as a dental hygienist in 2018. Laura was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, and went to college in San Diego, California. She’s a citizen of both Mexico and the United States.
Laura’s grandparents had a strong impact on her career and her life. “My grandmother taught me how to do traditional Mexican folklore dances. Because of her, I love to dance!” Her grandfather died of esophageal cancer when she was 8 years old. At a young age she began to understand the unique needs of older adults. “I now there are oral signs for cancer, but a lot of people like my grandparents just don’t go to the dentist because they can’t afford it.”
Recent research found nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries don’t have dental coverage and haven’t seen a dental provider in the previous year. The rates were higher among Blacks (68%) and Hispanics (61%).
“We see this in PACE, too,” says Dr. Dianne Earle, dental services director at InnovAge. “Some of the seniors we serve haven’t had access to routine dental care for many, many years. Having access to oral healthcare can be life changing.”
Dental hygienists like Laura work with other InnovAge dental professionals to provide teeth cleaning to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, look for any other oral abnormalities, and consult with patients on improving oral hygiene. For the older adults enrolled in the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), dental services may include:
- Routine dental exams, including regular cleanings
- Dental procedures
- Transportation to and from their local PACE center for visits with their dental team and to outside specialty appointments