Nursing home residents across the country are suffering painful dental injuries as a result of negligent staff failing to provide proper oral hygiene services, although it is required under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (for all who are unable to brush their own teeth).
It is often difficult to learn about neglect from senior citizens who cannot care for themselves. Their cognitive abilities are not as sharp as they used to be and dementia can render them unable to remember or communicate about an abusive caregiver. With obvious signs of neglect - like bed sores - it is easy to start investigating. However, with dental injuries, it's not possible to see the pain. Sometimes it's not possible to discover a dental issue until the resident complaints of pain, a headache, or is unable to chew their food.
Oral surgeries are painful and expensive, but infections and specialized work are preventable with proper oral hygiene. The New York Times recently reported that dentures are far less complicated for nursing home staff to clean than brushing teeth. The piece also reported that most staff have not received adequate training on administering proper oral healthcare.
Infections in the mouth and gums can lead to other infections. However, an elderly person's immune system is often fragile and an oral infection could compromise their overall health and be fatal. In addition, many of the common medications that senior citizens require on a daily basis have side effects that cause dry mouth - creating an oral environment prone to bacteria. Curious about a North Carolina nursing home's history? Check out the NC Nursing Home Rating System.