August 9

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Every Fact You Must Know About Nursing Homes And Dental Care For Their Residents


There is a lot that needs to be known about nursing home dental services. It’s approximated that there are almost two million elderly US citizens who are residing in nursing home facilities across the nation, and a vast majority of such residents need assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living), oral hygiene included.

A study of five long-term care facilities within upstate New York carried out in 2006 indicated that only 16% of residents were given any form of oral care, and for the cases of residents who did receive care, tooth brushing lasted for just a mere average of sixteen seconds – far shorter than the two minutes that is recommended by experts. The elderly are faced with a wide range of different oral health care risks just as a result of what aging means as regards oral health.

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The elderly and oral health

Probably the major challenge to assisting the elderly in maintaining excellent oral health is the truth that almost one-third of residents in nursing homes experience dry mouth. Dry mouth (xerostomia) is normally a consequence of taking varying medications required in the treatment of anxiety, asthma, dementia, allergies, and high blood pressure. The production of saliva naturally reduces as an individual ages, and the need for the medications makes the situation even worse.

Saliva is the human body’s major means of fighting bacteria buildup inside the mouth and decreased saliva production levels leaves residents at risk of periodontal disease, overgrowth of gums, tooth decay, and in need of expert nursing home dental care. Poor oral health has been linked to heart disease, increased rate of weight loss, and NHAP (nursing home acquired pneumonia).

What makes the residents’ situation even more challenging is that;

  • Lots of seniors lose all dental care coverage after they retire.
  • Medicare doesn’t cover standard dental care (e.g. fillings and cleanings), and extent of coverage of dental services generally varies from one state to the other.
  • There could be a shortage of expert dental practitioners visiting long-term care facilities.
  • Some healthcare staff are overworked or aren’t trained and have so many residents under their care that oral hygiene becomes less crucial in comparison to feeding, washing, dressing, and other varying bodily needs.
  • In instances of dementia, patients just refuse to let anybody touch their mouth. Research is ongoing to aid nurses and caregivers in this regard.
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Selecting the right nursing home

When shopping nursing home options for any of your loved ones, ensure that you ask about how they offer dental care to their residents. Ask valuable questions like;

  • Does the nursing facility/home feature any dentist on-call?
  • Have the facility’s nursing staff been trained to recognize all dental problems?
  • Do the facility’s nursing staff offer routine, everyday basic oral hygiene care (once daily at least)?
  • How do the facility’s staff address residents’ oral care resistance?

In conclusion, whenever you visit your loved one, make it your habit to always inspect his/her mouth to make sure that appropriate nursing home dental services and appropriate mouth care are being given. Some states feature laws for the provision of appropriate dental care in nursing homes, yet federal rules are in place too.

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