Neglected dental care in nursing home an 'epidemic'

According to many dentists, neglected oral care in nursing homes is not only leading to horrible pain for residents, but it can lead to other health problems, as well. Studies have shown that poor dental care in the elderly can be a contributing factor in pneumonia. One dentist says that neglected daily oral care in nursing homes is "an epidemic that's almost universally overlooked."

One woman whose father was in a Virginia nursing home noticed that his teeth were not being brushed properly. She started brushing his teeth after they would have lunch together. Her father soon complained of a headache that would not go away and she told the staff to schedule an appointment for him with a dentist. The dentist found a tooth that was so badly decayed, it had broken in two. A piece of the tooth that had broken off had become stuck in roof of the man's mouth.

The Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors developed a survey to gauge the problem of neglected oral care in nursing homes. Seven states have used this survey since 2011 to evaluate nursing home residents. One state found that of 540 elderly patients examined by dental hygienists, more than 33 percent had decay that had not been treated. Thirty percent also had "substantial oral debris" on 66 percent of their teeth.

In another state, 1,100 patients were examined. Almost one-third had teeth that were broken all the way to the gums and had roots exposed. More than a third had "substantial oral debris" on their teeth.

Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in the elderly and oral bacteria have been linked to its cause. Several studies have shown that improved dental case could reduce the risk. A 2008 review in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society says that one in 10 nursing home deaths from pneumonia could be prevented through simply improving the level of oral care.

If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect, contact an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney. Your loved one has rights and those rights need to be protected. Your attorney can help provide you with options, including a possible civil action against those responsible for the neglect or abuse.

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