Poor Dental Hygiene in Nursing Homes: An Overlooked Epidemic
This past weekend the New York Times posted a compelling article on their website entitled “In Nursing Homes, An Epidemic of Poor Dental Hygiene.” The article focused on a Virginia nursing home resident who complained to his daughter that he was suffering from severe headaches. After noticing dust on her father’s toothbrush, the daughter began brushing her dad’s teeth herself and demanded that the staff bring in a dentist to examine her father’s teeth. Upon evaluation, the dentist found a tooth that had broken in two and a part of the broken tooth lodged in the roof of the resident’s mouth.
According to the article, dental hygiene in nursing homes is oftentimes neglected as a result of overworked Nursing Aides and overpopulated nursing facilities. Dental hygiene is placed on the back burner as other care tasks are prioritized (i.e. turning and repositioning, being helped to the toilet, being fed, etc). Moreover, nursing homes lack trained staff members who can cope with the “rising number of residents with dementia who resist routine dental hygiene.” As a result, residents with dementia are at the most risk for poor dental hygiene and related injuries including gum disease, headaches, infection and even pneumonia.
BY LAW, your loved one is entitled to standard dental care (brushing and flossing) provided by the nursing staff if he or she is unable to do so by his or herself. Ask the nursing home staff about the protocol they have in place for dental hygiene. Do they have a dental hygienist on staff? Are nurses checking in regularly to ensure your loved one is receiving standard dental care? Poor hygiene can be a sign of Neglect and Abuse.
If you need more information about the rights your loved ones are entitled to as residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities or other long term care units, or you suspect your loved one’s dental hygiene has been a neglected part of their care, reach out to us at Sugarman Law.