The Abuse of Teeth in Nursing Homes
By the time you have reached your seventies, your teeth are tired. Even with proper care and regular trips to the dentist, your teeth and gums have gone through a lifetime of wear and tear.
Teeth can withstand this wear and tear if they have received proper care and treatment throughout their life, but for the generation currently in the age range of 65 to 85, their teeth likely didn’t receive the best attention. These people grew up in a time where teeth were less important and where affording dentistry was a difficulty that often could not be managed. Due to the lack of access to good dental care, many older adults suffer from numerous oral health problems.
These problems can cause them pain and irritation in their day-to-day life. Many seniors are unable to chew foods that they used to eat with ease, and many suffer other restrictions because of their dentures.
The sad truth, however, is that once these elderly adults enter into nursing homes, their teeth become even more neglected. A New York Times article relayed the horrors of dentistry in nursing homes. Because nursing home caretakers have many patients to look after, and because more pressing problems arise regarding overall health, oral health is often left to the wayside.
Often times, teeth are left unbrushed and dental issues are ignored until the last minute. Some residents have had such severe oral issues that it has caused eating problems. The best way to combat this issue is to advocate for your loved ones. If they can leave for the day, take them to lunch and to a dentist appointment afterwards. Or try to cultivate a relationship with one of their regular caretakers who can account for their brushing needs.
If your parents or grandparents are in a nursing home, it is important to try and schedule regular dental appointments for them and keep track of what is happening with both their oral health and overall health.