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Patients are suffering from dental-related neglect at nursing homes

When elderly Americans or younger people who have suffered severe injury or illness are admitted into nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, they are guaranteed to receive a certain level of care under the law. Their providers may not engage in elder neglect, may not abuse patients, must treat their medical issues, must keep them from preventable harm and must ensure that their basic hygienic needs are met. These are just a few of the broad care-related protections that nursing home patients are entitled to.

Unfortunately, many care providers fail to live up to the standard of care mandated by law. For example, a great many nursing home patients have been denied necessary dental hygiene and treatment in recent years. The Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors has developed a screening process in order to evaluate the dental health of nursing home residents. At least seven states have opted to screen their residents using this process since 2011. The results of these screenings have been shocking.

In one state, screeners indicated that for many nursing home residents, "regular dental care has become a thing of the past," according to the New York Times. In another state, roughly one-third of residents screened had teeth that were broken all the way down to their gums. This is only a small sampling of the dental-related neglect currently occurring across the U.S.

Given that neglecting proper oral hygiene has recently been linked with pneumonia in elderly people and given that dental-related neglect can lead to severe pain and infection in affected patients, it is critical that loved ones insist that patients be given adequate and consistent attention in this regard. If your loved one has suffered harm as a result of dental-related neglect by nursing care providers, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you explore your legal options.

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

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