Of the more than 270 million people in the United States, about 13 per cent are aged 65 years or older. As in most other countries throughout the world, this proportion of the population is projected to increase in the coming years. To care for this ageing and racially/ethnically diverse population, health care professionals, especially dentists, must initiate changes in public policies, available resources and access to services. The dental profession especially must improve awareness among the general public and health care professionals of the link between oral health and general health. Immediate improvements should be made to increase the proportion of dentists who are willing and qualified to treat these patient groups. Increasing the reimbursement rates available through the Medicaid programme and expanding the types of services Medicaid recipients can seek are critical. Dental education programmes must continue to provide more training opportunities to prepare professionals to meet the needs of these patients.