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Highlighting the issue of poor dental care in nursing homes

If asked to imagine cases of nursing home abuse and/or neglect, most in Woodbury would likely conjure up images of staff members physically or sexually assaulting residents, or leaving them for hours and hours without any sort of care at all. While the aforementioned examples certainly are a cause for concern, there is another form of neglect that nursing home residents may be subject to that is much less subtle, and thus often overlooked: poor dental hygiene practices.

There are many physical ailments that are linked to poor dental health (many of which present a unique risk to nursing home residents). For example, information shared by The Journal of Multidisciplinary Care shows that pneumonia is responsible for a large portion of hospitalizations and deaths amongst residents of nursing homes. The same publication cited research showing that improved dental hygiene lead to a marked decrease in the risk of nursing home patients contracting aspiration pneumonia.

Nursing home staff members are charged with ensuring that residents remain clean through routine bathing and grooming. One would assume that daily dental care would also fall into this routine. However, studies indicate that many staffs are not meeting this standard. Research results shared by the National Institutes of Health showed that amongst the New York nursing homes participating in the cited study, the highest adherence rate to proper dental care standards was only 16 percent. Shortcomings frequently witnessed from staff members included failures to:

  •          Brush residents’ teeth for at least two minutes
  •          Assist residents with flossing
  •          Rinse residents’ mouths with antibacterial mouthwash
  •          Conduct oral assessments
  •          Wear gloves while assisting residents with oral care

Given these statistics, one might consider addressing oral hygiene assistance standards when researching nursing homes (as well as ensuring that such standards are being met with his or her loved one). 

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