The New York Times recently published an article regarding the increasing problem of dental hygiene neglect amongst residents in nursing homes.
“I always say you can measure quality in a nursing home by looking in people’s mouths because it’s one of the last things to be taken care of,” stated Dr. Judith A. Jones, chairwoman of the department of general dentistry at Boston University. “Aides change someone’s Depends, change a catheter or turn somebody every few hours, but teeth often don’t get brushed twice a day”.
Nursing home workers have the task of brushing teeth of residents who are unable to do so themselves.
It is not uncommon in nursing homes for residents to have cavities, gum disease and cracked teeth. A major contributor to these dental problems is the fact that resident’s mouths are often not kept clean. Nursing home workers often have many other important tasks and teeth cleaning occasionally falls to the bottom of their list.
Dr. Lamster, a dentist and professor of health policy at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, has stated that “many prescription drugs including some antidepressants, medications for high blood pressure and anti-seizure medications can reduce saliva and dry the mouth. Without daily oral care, older people taking such drugs are especially prone to a relatively rapid deterioration”.
Neglecting proper oral care can lead to many problems for residents. Not only do they suffer from terrible pain when their teeth are not cleaned properly, there are also dangerous health risks.
A new study suggests that this problem may be contributing to pneumonia, a leading killer of institutionalized older people. Moreover, various studies demonstrate that proper dental care may reduce the risk of pneumonia. According to a 2008 review published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, approximately one in 10 cases of deaths from pneumonia in nursing homes could be prevented by improving oral hygiene.
The New York Times has brought attention to this dangerous epidemic, as the article explains that there are serious health risks if dental problems are left untreated. Preventative measures may not only allow residents to live more comfortably but can also potentially save lives.
Thank you for reading.