Especially among residents of long term care facilities, oral health affects general health:
- Many medications leave the resident more susceptible to oral bacteria and infection.
- Bacteria from gum infections can increase the development of the plaques that cause strokes and heart attacks.
- Breathing in the bacteria from gum infections is a significant risk factor in contracting pneumonia.
- Estimates of the percentage of long term care residents with unmet dental needs range from 80% to 96%(1) – with up to 78% having untreated tooth decay(2) and 40% with periodontal disease(3).
- Oral cancer kills thousands of people each year. The older a person is, the more susceptible they are to oral cancer. Dental examinations can help to detect oral cancer.
- Long term care residents may have trouble communicating the source of pain, resulting in a failure to diagnose oral issues by the facility staff.
(1) Kambhu PP, Warren JJ, Hand JS, et al. Dental treatment outcomes among dentate nursing facility residents: an initial study. Spec Care Dent. 1998;18:128-132.
(2) The looming crisis: 15 key questions about long term care. American Health Care Association. 1998. www.ahca.org/secure/top15.htm.
(3) Vargas CM, Kramarow EA, Yellowitz JA. The Oral Health of Older Americans. Aging Trends; No. 3. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2001.