“In Nursing Homes, an Epidemic of Poor Dental Hygiene”*, the New York Times paints a stark picture of how neglecting dental care for the elderly can lead to terrible pain and may contributing to pneumonia, a leading killer of institutionalized older people.
The lack of daily oral care in nursing facilities is “an epidemic that’s almost universally overlooked”
The lack of dental care among the homebound and elderly is, unfortunately, very common. The Kansas Bureau of Oral Health reports, based on examinations of 540 older residents in 20 long-term-care facilities:
- Nearly 30% had “substantial oral debris on at least two-thirds of their teeth”
- More than one-third had untreated decay.
- “Regular dental care has become a thing of the past” for many of the residents.
In Wisconsin, based on examinations of nearly 1,100 residents from 24 care facilities:
- Approximately 31% had teeth broken to the gums, with visible roots
- 35% had substantial oral debris.
What are the consequences?
In addition to pain, difficulty in eating, speech impediments and discomfort, researchers have linked oral bacteria to hospital-acquired pneumonia in older people. In addition, multiple studies have shown that oral care — from regular brushing to professional dental care — might reduce the risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia in older people.
Roughly one in 10 cases of deaths from pneumonia in nursing homes could be prevented by improving oral hygiene, according to a 2008 systematic review published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The Homeward Bound Dentist Can Help
The Homeward Bound Dentist provides home dental health care to anyone who is housebound due to physical or other disabilities. If travel to the dentist for you, or for the person you care for, is difficult or unsafe, the Homeward Bound Dentist is for you. If you need to remain in a special chair where care cannot be provided in your regular dentist’s office, then the Homeward Bound Dentist is for you.
*New York Times August 4, 2013