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Poor Dental Hygiene in Nursing Homes an Issue

Poor oral hygiene in nursing homes is considered abuse. At first glance this statement may seem like just another way for unscrupulous lawyers to make money. However, there is cause for alarm. In a 2010 study from The Journal of the American Dental Association, it was found that appropriate oral hygiene prevented certain maladies such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. Add to this the ever present problem of too little nursing home staff and too many residents and you have a recipe for nursing home medical malpractice.

Another issue that exacerbates this problem also pertains to the nursing home staff. All too often the staff of a nursing home do not have the proper medical training it takes to adequately aid in the care of elderly patients. Nursing home medical malpractice often takes the form of neglect. Neglect means residents lack adequate bathing, clean clothes and oral hygiene among other things.

Nursing home residents who are victims of neglect can develop a variety of problems from bed sores and weight loss to emotional problems and behavior issues. Death can even occur if the situation is prolonged and worsened.

Poor hygiene can also be caused by the facility itself. If the bathrooms and shower facilities are not kept sanitized and clean bacteria can grow. Food preparation and storage areas are also a concern. If these areas are not clean and sanitary bacteria and infection will spawn. The same goes for common areas. Food, excrement or filth that carries into these rooms must also be cleaned away and the area sanitized.

The New York Times reported an epidemic of poor dental hygiene in nursing homes in 2013. According to them, there is no nursing home oral heal national assessment currently in place. The best we have done so far is since 2011 seven states asses their patient’s dental health in nursing homes using a survey from the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.

Kansas is one of those states which uses the survey as a tool to tell how rampant tooth decay is in their nursing home facilities. According to their survey results roughly 30% of their residents has some form of tooth decay. Wisconsin’s results were much the same with approximately 30% of the residents with broken teeth and advanced tooth decay. If this is any indicator of the rest of the country we are in trouble.

Dr. David Gifford, the American Health Care Association’s senior vice president of quality addressed the problem saying, "They should be getting their care, but a lot of people don’t." The American Health Care Association is a trade group representing two thirds of the nation’s nursing homes.

One last issue the nursing homes have little control over is the resident’s wishes. There are instances when the residents refuse help and will not maintain proper personal oral hygiene. If this were the only obstacle, there would be far less problems.

There may be a case of malpractice in a nursing home if proper oral hygiene was not administered and the nursing home is at fault.