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Forsyth Institute receives grant to provide dental care to seniors in need

The Forsyth Institute’s ForsythCares program was recently awarded a $50,000 grant to expand its services providing oral health care to seniors in need. The funding will allow ForsythCares to create a “free-care fund” to bridge the cost deficit for seniors whose oral health treatment is not covered or insufficiently covered by MassHealth insurance.

The ForsythCares pilot program aims to meet the oral health care needs of older adults—a population that often faces barriers to accessing adequate dental care. A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that almost 40 percent of seniors did not visit a dentist in 2014. While oral health is essential to overall health at every age, it is particularly important for seniors, as they are more likely to suffer from gum disease and other related oral health conditions. Low-income and African American seniors are nearly twice as likely as more affluent and white patients to experience gum disease and related systemic conditions, according to the Pew report.

Led by Dr. Alpdogan Kantarci, Senior Member of Staff at Forsyth and Director of the Forsyth Faculty Associates dental practice, ForsythCares is designed to meet the specific oral health needs of seniors. A major thrust of Dr. Kantarci’s current research is focused on the link between gum disease and other conditions affecting older adults, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

“Seniors are a vital and valuable part of our community. For too long, they have suffered disproportionately from the negative impacts of dental disease,” said Dr. Kantarci. “This grant will allow ForsythCares to create a targeted outreach strategy with our partners in the City of Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts to develop an affordable care model tailored to older adults.”

The grant will build capacity for ForsythCares to provide a safety net for treatment of at-risk elders that keeps their medical costs within an affordable threshold. This includes preventive measures such as periodontal care and other restorative procedures that are common among older adults. Oral health care also serves as a gateway to other types of treatment for related systemic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, Dr. Kantarci said.

This funding was awarded to Forsyth by the NextFifty Initiative, a Colorado-based foundation that supports efforts to improve the lives of older adults and their caregivers. “Our goal is to transform the way our society views and experiences aging, and that influences the types of programs and projects we fund,” said Diana McFail, President and CEO of NextFifty Initiative. “The Forsyth Institute’s ForsythCares program aligns with our efforts to improve and sustain quality of life for people in their second 50 years. We offer our support and congratulations.”

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