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Is Poor Dental Hygiene an Issue in Nursing Homes?

Published on Nov 8, 2019 at 10:49 am in Nursing Home Abuse.
Is Poor Dental Hygiene an Issue in Nursing Homes?

As the number of residents in nursing homes rise, the amount of staff either stays the same or lessens. This makes it nearly impossible for you or your loved one to get proper care in a long-term facility. Even though you expect all basic needs to be met, that’s not always the case.

Nursing home staff has a hard enough time meeting the minimum of basic needs for all patients, and dental hygiene can be no different. Other parts of care are prioritized above oral care, which leaves many teeth unbrushed and unattended.

The Struggle for Oral Care

While oral care is an issue in nursing homes, sometimes the problem starts before the patient is in the facility. Patients don’t necessarily have good oral health before coming to a nursing home, so their teeth and gum health can easily decline in a facility where they don’t get proper care.

Additionally, it might have been easier for staff when more older Americans had dentures to clean. Since they come out of the mouth, they can be cleaned with minimal intrusion. But now, people keep their natural teeth longer than before, so they don’t need dentures as often. When the teeth are still part of their mouth, though, they are harder to ensure that they’re clean.

Even if staff does try to brush a resident’s teeth, they might not be able to. The patients know they need to keep their teeth clean and they can’t do it themselves, but they still might refuse help. Dr. Gifford, the senior vice president of quality at the American Health Care Association said, “It’s a very personal thing to have someone else brush your teeth. A lot of residents don’t want it, don’t like it, and will ask not to have it.”

What’s the Result of Poor Dental Health?

Other than poor hygiene, medications can affect oral health. A blog by The New York Times states that prescription drugs taken by older patients can reduce saliva and dry out the mouth. Some of these medications are antidepressants, anti-seizure medication, and high blood pressure reducers. Combined with poor oral hygiene, these medications can make oral health even worse.

A study published by BioMed Central found that nursing home residents have a considerable problem of dental hygiene that leads to a decline in overall health. Some oral health problems that older Americans have are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Broken teeth
  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Bleeding gums
  • Toothache and cavity

Many of these can be treated by a dentist quickly, but when they are allowed to get worse because a patient is neglected, they can lead to greater health problems than losing teeth. The study went on to say that oral disease often led to other diseases like diabetes, pneumonia, circulatory disease, and heart disease. In older adults, these can be especially dangerous because they often have suppressed immune systems.

When you or your loved one goes to a nursing home in Lexington for long-term care, you expect only the best treatment. If that doesn’t happen, there could be serious consequences. You could fall into poor health and incur more medical bills, or worse, if you’re neglected and left untreated, you could die. You shouldn’t have to deal with this on your own. The Law Office of Todd W. Burris can support you through this hard time and get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today so we can start discussing your claim.

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