What is dental disease?
Dental disease, also known as periodontitis or gum disease, is a gum infection that can turn serious, damaging both the gums and jawbone, if not treated promptly. Dental disease may also contribute to tooth loss and heart and lung disease. It usually causes the gums to become red, swollen, and tender. But people suffering from dental disease may also experience bleeding gums, toothache, bad breath, loose teeth, and receding gums.
Dental disease usually occurs because of poor oral hygiene. Other risk factors for dental disease include smoking, genetics, crooked teeth, diabetes, pregnancy, and certain medications. In most cases, dental disease can be prevented through regular dental checkups, daily teeth brushing and flossing, and a healthy diet.
How is dental disease caused by nursing home neglect or abuse?
In some cases, nursing homes may neglect to provide residents with proper nutrition, which may lead to dental disease and other health problems. This can happen when nursing homes lack the resources to provide balanced meals for all residents, or when they are short on staff and fail to recognize a resident’s specific dietary needs.
Nursing homes may also neglect to provide residents with access to regular dental care, either because they are short on staff or lack the training. When nursing homes are short on staff, they may not have the time to help residents with daily flossing and brushing of their teeth, and may forget to set up regular dental appointments for residents.
What should a nursing home do to prevent dental disease?
Besides providing all residents with healthy, balanced diets, nursing homes should ensure regular dental care for each resident to prevent dental disease. This includes either employing a dentist on the nursing home staff or arranging a contract with a dentist outside the nursing home so that residents receive regular dental checkups and emergency help when needed. If necessary, nursing homes should help residents set up dental appointments and arrange transportation to and from the dentist’s office.
Additionally, nursing homes should help residents seek emergency dental care when they experience pain in the teeth or gums, broken or damaged teeth, or other serious oral problems. Caregivers should make sure residents with dentures use them, and that dentures are intact and fit properly. When residents lose or damage dentures, nursing homes should refer them to a dentist as soon as possible.
Can the nursing home be held responsible for dental disease?
Georgia nursing home federal regulations make nursing homes directly responsible for the dental care needs of their residents. So if a nursing home resident develops dental disease or other painful oral hygiene problems, the nursing home may be held responsible. Treatment for dental disease may simply require professional cleaning of the teeth, or, in severe cases, it may require surgery. If the nursing home is found responsible, then the law requires the nursing home to pay for any medical costs associated with the resident’s dental disease, as well as money for any pain and suffering the resident experienced because of dental disease.