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December 5, 2020

Nursing Homes and Dental Hygiene Neglect

Do you have a loved one in a nursing home? Although you probably did your research beforefinding a facility you trust, it’s important to check in periodically and ensure the staff is taking proper care of its residents. Staffers and residents change over time, and other factors can affect the care your loved one gets as time goes on.

Oral Hygiene and Health

Many people may not realize that failing to care for the teeth and gums may lead to overall health problems. This makes oral hygiene an important factor in preventive care, particularly in elderly patients or those with certain ailments. The American Dental Association has published studies linking poor oral hygiene to pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections.

The link between oral hygiene and the respiratory tract isn’t obvious, despite the physical proximity. Often, if someone dies or is hospitalized due to an upper respiratory infection, loved ones may not make the connection between proper oral care and the resulting illness. Unfortunately, some families may not realize their loved one’s decline could have been prevented with proper oral care.

Signs of Oral Hygiene Neglect

While some signs of oral hygiene neglect may be obvious, others may not be. This can be especially true if the patient has lost all his or her natural teeth. Gum and denture care is just as important as brushing and flossing when it comes to proper hygiene.

To be certain your loved one is receiving proper oral care in a nursing home, look for signs of neglect:

  • Ask the patient if he or she has any mouth pain
  • Look for mouth sores, bleeding gums or excessive redness inside the mouth
  • Check for halitosis (chronic bad breath)
  • Look at your loved one’s toothbrush—does it appear to be getting used?

Some patients, particularly those suffering from dementia, may resist personal care such as oral hygiene. This does not excuse nursing home staff from performing these tasks for their residents. It’s a nursing home’s duty to care for their residents’ teeth and gums without abusing or improperly restraining the patient.

It can be heart wrenching to discover the nursing home staff in which you’ve placed your trust aren’t properly caring for someone you care about. If you find a nursing home may be neglecting your loved one, and particularly if you feel staffers are dodging your questions about the care they provide, it may be time to find another care provider.