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Dental Professionals See 'Epidemic' of Poor Oral Hygiene in Nursing Home Residents

Good personal hygiene—including dental care—is especially important for nursing home residents, many of whom have delicate medical conditions or are unable to care for themselves. Nursing homes are obligated to ensure that residents’ hygiene is maintained and to provide assistance as necessary; the consequences of poor hygiene can diminish a resident’s quality of life and lead to potentially life-threatening medical problems.

The nursing home abuse attorneys at Cullan & Cullan, are dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home residents and their families. If you suspect a loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse in a nursing home, please call us at (816) 253-8606 for your free consultation.

Increasing attention has been focused on inadequate oral hygiene in nursing homes. The recent New York Times article “In Nursing Homes, an Epidemic of Poor Dental Hygiene” states that in “nursing homes across the country, residents … are plagued by cavities, gum disease, and cracked teeth, in part because their mouths are not kept clean.”

The article quotes Dr. Judith A. Jones, the chairwoman of Boston University’s department of general dentistry, who says, “I always say you can measure quality in a nursing home by looking in people’s mouths because it’s one of the last things to be taken care of. Aides change someone’s Depends, change a catheter or turn somebody every few hours, but teeth often don’t get brushed twice a day.” Dr. Sarah J. Dirks, a dentist who treats those in nursing homes, calls insufficient oral care in nursing homes “an epidemic that’s almost universally overlooked.”

In late 2010, The Journal of the American Dental Association published the results of a study that found improved oral hygiene could reduce the incidence of death from pneumonia and respiratory tract infection among the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals. Although there are currently no national assessments for the quality of oral health in nursing homes, an increasing number of states are evaluating nursing home residents with guidelines developed by the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors and, through individual states’ departments of oral health, sending dental hygienists into nursing homes to examine residents’ dental health.

If you have a family member in a nursing home, it’s important to watch for signs of neglect and abuse.

If you believe a loved one is suffering from negligent care or abuse in a nursing home, please contact Cullan & Cullan today.

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