Nursing Home: Epidemic of Poor Dental Hygiene

The daughter of a World War II veteran, Katherine Ford, visited her father regularly at his nursing home in Roanoke, VA before she noticed the dust on his electric toothbrush. She then found out that his teeth had not been brushed by his caregivers recently and he had been complaining of a severe headache. Katherine badgered the staff to make an appointment for him with his dentist. The dentist discovered that a tooth had been broken in two. Unfortunately, these kinds of incidents are quite common in nursing homes around the country. Nursing home residents are plagued by cavities, gum disease and cracked  teeth due to poor dental care. Brushing resident’s teeth have fallen to the bottom of the to-do list for aides since they are preoccupied with other tasks such as feeding and repositioning in the bed. Even when aides have time to care for the residents, few staff members are actually trained to cope with the rising number of residents with dementia who resist routine dental hygiene. The neglect of dental care can lead to extremely severe pain for the residents. New studies suggest that this problem may contribute to pneumonia. A 2006 study of five facilities in upstate New York found that only 16% of residents received any oral care at all. Among those who did, average tooth brushing time was only 16 seconds and supplies like toothbrushes and  toothpaste were scarce. Medications such as antidepressants can reduce saliva and dry out the mouth which can lead to rapid deterioration of residents’ teeth. Lack of proper oral care does not only result in gum disease but it may also cause pneumonia in some nursing home residents. Since 2004, a series of studies have shown that oral care might reduce the risk of pneumonia and other serious infections. 10% of deaths from pneumonia in nursing homes could be prevented by improving oral hygiene. If you believe a family member is being neglected in a nursing home, contact us immediately. We can help. Read the full article here.