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Lack of dental care can be nursing home neglect

People in nursing homes are often those who can't care for themselves because of an illness, injury or old age. They depend on caring and trained staff to care for their basic daily needs and some medical care. Part of their daily routine should be dental care, including brushing the patient's teeth and ensuring they have access to dentists if needed.

While many people might assume this is a regular part of care provided at nursing home facilities, multiple studies across different states have found consistently poor dental care in patients of nursing homes. One woman in another state didn't discover her father's dental problem in his nursing home for weeks or months until she noticed dust accumulating on his toothbrush.

The woman demanded that her father have a dental appointment. The dentist found the man had a broken tooth and part of the tooth had been lodged in the roof of his mouth. This level of nursing home neglect is common in nursing homes because many times nursing homes are concerned with other matters and dental care is often forgotten.

Studies have also suggested that lack of dental care can result in pneumonia in some cases. Pneumonia is a major cause of death in nursing homes and for elderly people. While family members can help prevent some nursing home issues by asking questions, it is important that facilities understand the needs of patients, and handle routine care. It might be wise for family members to understand their rights if they suspect neglect or abuse.

Source: New York Times, "In Nursing Homes, an Epidemic of Poor Dental Hygiene," Catherine Saint Louis, Aug. 4, 2013

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