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Poor dental hygiene in nursing homes may be sign of greater ills

Brushing your teeth everyday is probably such a simple part of your routine that you might not even notice that you're doing it. However, imagine not being able to have that routine but instead relying on someone else to make the time twice a day to brush your teeth. This is the situation of many residents in nursing homes, who rely on nurses and aids for their most basic needs and who often have little recourse when those needs are not met.

Nursing home neglect on an issue like dental hygiene may not seem like a serious problem at first, but upon closer inspection it may be both a sign of greater trouble and a potential health threat for long-term residents.

In fact, a dentistry professor said that the quality of a nursing home in general can often be measured by looking at oral hygiene first, since it can fall to the bottom of the list of priorities for overworked staff.

In one recent case, a woman noticed that her fathers teeth had not been brushed in quite some time when she started doing it herself on her daily visits. Her father soon complained about pain, specifically a very severe headache. When she was able to get him in to see a dentist it was discovered that he had a broken tooth, part of which had lodged in the top of his mouth.

Along with this type of injury, gum disease and cavities are also common among nursing home residents who do not receive appropriate dental hygiene care.

Source: New York Times, "In Nursing Homes, an Epidemic of Poor Dental Hygiene," Catherine Saint Louis, Aug. 4, 2013 

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