Poor Oral Hygiene Is a Red Flag of Neglect in Nursing Homes

Stories about nursing home abuse and neglect understandably have many people on edge when their loved ones live in care facilities. If your family member resides in a nursing home, you may find it difficult to fully trust that all of their needs are being taken care of, but you may not know how to tell if your loved one is being abused if there are no obvious signs.

Lack of telltale signs of abuse or neglect such as bruises, weight loss, or fear of staff members doesn’t always mean that your loved one is free from mistreatment. Another common sign of potential neglect is poor oral hygiene, which isn’t always obvious or noticeable by family members.

How Does Poor Oral Hygiene Suggest Neglect?

All nursing home residents deserve to be able to maintain their dignity and basic life accommodations and routines, and that includes either access to personal hygiene products or receiving assistance with those tasks if they’re unable to perform them.

When residents have poor oral hygiene, it can suggest that they don’t have access to a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, denture care products, or other necessities. If they are unable to take care of their teeth on their own, it can suggest that staff members aren’t giving them the assistance they need.

Another possibility is that residents with poor oral hygiene suffer from depression, fatigue, or other physical or mental health problem that interferes with their ability to maintain their oral hygiene that the nursing home is letting go untreated.

What Are the Signs of Poor Oral Hygiene?

The signs of poor oral hygiene in nursing home residents can vary depending on their age and their teeth. Residents with most or all of their natural teeth will have the same signs of poor oral hygiene as others, including:

  • Toothaches due to tooth decay
  • Bleeding and inflamed gums
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gumline
  • Dry mouth (especially common in older adults)

Residents who use dentures or who only have a few of their natural teeth supported by bridges, implants, and partial dentures may show other symptoms of poor oral hygiene, such as:

  • Mouth sores
  • Oral thrush, also known as denture stomatitis
  • Difficulty speaking due to poor denture adhesion
  • Pain when eating, drinking, or swallowing

What Are Potential Complications of Poor Oral Hygiene?

Bad oral health isn’t just a cosmetic or personal hygiene issue. It can also lead to serious health problems, especially in older adults and nursing home residents with compromised immune systems and pre-existing health conditions. Examples include:

  • Tooth decay that results in severe pain and tooth loss
  • Infection
  • Malnutrition due to difficulty eating
  • Cardiovascular disease due to bacteria entering the bloodstream through open sores in the mouth and affecting the heart and arteries
  • Dementia or worsening of existing dementia due to oral bacteria affecting the brain
  • Oral cancer due to chronic inflammation

How Can Poor Oral Hygiene be Prevented in Nursing Home Residents?

If you notice that your loved one has poor oral hygiene, make sure they have access to a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, denture paste and cleaner, and any other products they need. If they can’t easily brush their teeth or manage their dentures, ask for someone on staff to assist them with this task.

Sometimes nursing home residents are still capable of managing their oral health, but they may not know how if they’ve become disabled or experienced new limitations. A qualified physical therapist or caretaker can help your loved one learn new ways to brush and floss if they have difficulty standing, bending over, or using their arms, hands, and fingers.

We Help Nursing Home Neglect Victims Get Compensation

When you decided to move your loved one into a nursing home, you expected them to get top-notch care. After all, that’s why nursing homes are so expensive, right? But the sad reality is that many nursing homes are profit-driven first, while residents’ care and health come second.

At Wagner Reese, we hold negligent nursing homes accountable when their residents needlessly suffer. If you believe your family member’s physical or mental health declined due to a neglectful or abusive nursing home, we’re here to help you get the money you deserve. Contact our Indianapolis nursing home neglect attorneys today for a free consultation.