Many Nursing Homes May Be Neglecting Teeth of Their Residents
It has been found that there is a high disregard for dental hygiene and neglecting teeth in general in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities, according to recent studies.
This is a problem that is becoming prevalent throughout the entire United States and Minneapolis nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are experiencing more cases involving loved ones getting poor dental care while in the facilities.
Individuals have seen rather obvious clues that their loved ones are being neglected, such as tooth decay, toothbrushes that have dust on them, and family having to plead with staff to make dental appointments. A majority of the residents do have some kind of dental insurance that will pay for their regular cleanings and procedures.
Neglecting Teeth in Nursing Homes is a National Problem
In nursing homes all around the country, residents are suffering from gum disease, cavities, and cracked teeth because their mouths have not been kept clean. Residents are requiring more dental care than in the past since more elderly individuals have been able to keep their natural teeth due to advancements in dental care throughout the years. In the meantime, the nursing home employees are not prepared to provide the care needed. According to the CDC, by 2060, according to the US Census, the number of US adults aged 65 years or older is expected to reach 98 million, 24% of the overall population.1 Older Americans with the poorest oral health tend to be those who are economically disadvantaged, lack insurance, and are members of racial and ethnic minorities. Being disabled, homebound, or institutionalized (e.g., seniors who live in nursing homes) also increases the risk of poor oral health. Adults 50 years and older who smoke are also less likely to get dental care than people who do not smoke.6 Many older Americans do not have dental insurance because they lost their benefits upon retirement and the federal Medicare program does not cover routine dental care
Doctors have suggested that the quality of a nursing home can be determined by looking at the mouths of the residents because dental health is the last thing that is taken care of.
The neglect can result in horrible pain. New studies suggest that the problem may even be a contributor to pneumonia, which is the number one killer of elderly in nursing homes and other medical institutions.
The lack of daily oral care has become somewhat of an epidemic that’s almost totally overlooked among facilities.
Currently, there are no current national assessments of oral health in nursing homes. However, seven states have evaluated their nursing home residents since 2011 and found that nearly 30 percent of the residents had substantial oral debris on at least 2/3 of their teeth, according to the Kansas Bureau of Oral Health. More than 1/3 of those evaluated had untreated tooth decay.
The screeners saw many crowns and fillings, but they concluded that regular dental care is not something that is currently being received by elderly residents.
In Wisconsin, there were nearly 1,100 residents from over 20 homes that were examined and around 31 percent of them had teeth that were broken down to the gums with roots that were visible. Thirty-five percent of them had debris from past meals.
It has been taken into consideration that there are prescription drugs, including high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications that can dry out the mouth due to reducing saliva production. Without daily oral care, elderly people taking these drugs are more prone to the rapid deterioration of their teeth.
Nonetheless, there are deadly consequences for poor oral health. Since oral bacteria was linked to hospital-acquired pneumonia in the elderly, a number of studies have been shown that oral care can reduce the risk of pneumonia developing. Roughly one in ten dies from pneumonia in nursing home residents.
There are some companies that are offering worthwhile solutions. One nonprofit practice in Minnesota that provides services to 100 nursing homes performs routine cleanings for residents by dental hygienists. Minnesota is one of the states that allow a dental hygienist to provide some treatment without requiring authorization from a dentist.
Report Suspected Elder Abuse and Neglect – Including Neglecting of Teeth
For more information from the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Health Facility Complaints concerning nursing homes, assisted living and other elder care providers view resolved complaints at the MDH website.
If you have concerns about neglect of cares or any other form of elder abuse or neglect contact Minnesota Elder Abuse Attorney Kenneth LaBore toll free at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589 or by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com.