Poor dental health, including bleeding gums and cavities have long been known to be a risk factor for general health. A new study finds that far too many residents of nursing homes in Georgia and across the country suffer from poor dental care that also risks their health.
Good oral hygiene and health is essential not just for the average person but also, and especially so, for the elderly. Gum infections, for instance, can cause germs from the infection to travel into the person’s blood stream. It is well documented that the transmission of these germs in the bloodstream can cause heart disease and also increase the risk for other conditions. Additionally, cavities and other types of conditions can make it difficult for a person to chew food properly, placing him at risk of malnutrition. This can have serious consequences in the case of an elderly person.
The study was conducted by dental officers at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As part of the study, the researchers focused on the oral health of elderly residents at nursing homes certified with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to the study, as many as 20% of all elderly nursing home residents suffer from missing teeth. While missing teeth or missing tooth fragments was the most widely reported oral health condition, many residents also reported pain and difficulty while chewing, teeth cavities, and broken teeth. The study found that 8% suffered from cavities while 11% reported pain while chewing. Other common problems included damaged or broken dentures and gum infections, typically accompanied by bleeding and inflammation.