Proposed Bill would Improve Dental Care for Kentucky Nursing Home Residents

March 28, 2012

When comparing nursing homes as possible residences for a loved one, there are several things to consider. There are logistical details such as how far away the home is from friends and relatives. Financial constraints also play a major factor. But probably the most important thing to consider is the quality of care the person will receive while they reside there.

One aspect of care that is often overlooked by both the family of a nursing home resident and apparently the staff of some facilities is dental hygiene. Part of the daily ritual for the majority of children and adults across the country, oral care seems to be neglected or forgotten in some long-term care facilities. This neglect can lead not only to pain and discomfort for residents, but also to more serious problems. In one case, a Western Kentucky nursing home resident ended up with a gum infection that could have been fatal because the nursing staff didn't remove the person's dentures for six months. A proponent for oral care, Bernie Vonderheide reports "Recent studies have shown that as much as 44 percent of infections in nursing homes, such as deadly pneumonia, are caused by poor oral care."

In an attempt to improve these conditions for all Kentucky nursing home residents, a bill was introduced and has been passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee. Under House Bill 150, the Cabinet for Health and Human Services would work with the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky dental departments to create a program that would provide guidelines for dental health care in long-term care facilities. The program would be paid for by funds collected from nursing homes when they are fined for providing substandard care or putting residents at risk. A nursing assistant for each nursing home would receive training from one of the universities in dental care and would ultimately be responsible for the oral health care of all of the residents in the facility. A test of this system was done at a Lexington KY nursing home with a $25,000 grant from the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation. While the study results are unknown at this time, it appears that information that could be used in future training sessions was created and will be available to anyone interested in using it.

The bill will have to be passed by the House before it moves to the Senate for consideration.

If you have a loved one living in a Kentucky nursing home or long-term care facility, check with the staff to find out what their procedure is for providing dental care to residents. If one is not in place, encourage the home's administration to implement one. If the dental health of a loved one has been neglected and he or she required medical attention, speak to a Kentucky nursing home attorney about the situation. The law firm of Miller & Falkner provides Kentuckians with compassionate and knowledgeable advice on nursing home abuse and neglect.


Committee passes bill to improve oral health care at nursing homes; Lexington Herald-Leader; Valarie Honeycutt Spears; March 18, 2012