Author and dental hygienist, Angie Stone, has just released a book about a major epidemic hitting nursing homes. In it, she explains her research into why the elderly have an increased risk of death from a lack of proper oral hygiene. Sounds inconceivable? In her book, “Dying from Dirty Teeth: Why the Lack of Proper Oral Care Is Killing Nursing Home Residents and How to Prevent It” (Indie Books International, 2015), Stone examines the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes and COPD that nursing home residents face when they receive little to no oral hygiene or oral health care.
It’s a problem that has been going on for quite a while. Considering the growth of our aging population, it will probably become a much larger issue. Most family members aren’t even aware that Grandpa or Grandma might not be receiving the dental care that they are supposed to be getting.
As more and more researchers take a hard look at studies from the past thirty years, the evidence shows that a lack of dental care increases a person’s risks for many diseases. It’s exactly what Stone has done in her book, summarizing studies that indicate periodontal disease initiates many diseases from diabetes to dementia. As a dental professional for 30 years, Stone’s research has also been published in the journal Integrative Medicine.
Changing the Way we Look at Gum Disease one Study at a Time
Recent published research indicates that people who suffer from gum disease have a 60 percent greater chance of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than someone who has no gum disease. Other studies show a connection between oral bacteria due to poor dental hygiene and brain tissue deterioration and dementia. Not only can gum disease increase your risk of diabetes, but periodontal disease can make it very difficult to control.
Now it’s not all doom and gloom. One obvious way to avoid this is prevention, in other words seeing your dentist and hygienist twice a year, brushing twice daily and flossing a minimum of once a day. But the problem becomes more complicated when those who can’t do for themselves (like the elderly in assisted living or nursing homes) are dependent upon others for help. According to Stone, the highest risk for seniors is when the mouth bacteria is aspirated or inhaled into the lungs, which then turns into a lung infection, and quickly transforms into pneumonia. With aspiration pneumonia it’s not uncommon for small amounts of bacteria to become inhaled in the airways of the lungs. Of course a healthy person can rely upon the body’s immune system or other defense mechanisms to clear their lungs. It’s when these defense reactions, like coughing, become compromised that pneumonia can develop very quickly.
Of course, no one has every died directly from gum disease or dirty teeth, but the more we investigate the more we see how gum disease and mouth bacteria significantly increase our risks for many diseases. Until the medical profession at large really “owns” this fact, older folks at assisted living and nursing home will probably continue to get sick and even die from inadequate oral hygiene.
At Dr. Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD, PC, we look forward to helping you maintain a healthy smile throughout your lifetime. Nothing ever stays the same forever, but with a little assistance from us, we can provide the most advanced custom dental care for you and your most pressing dental issues. For comprehensive care delivered with compassion, give us a call at 248-356-8790. Discover the difference a great dentist can make!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790