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Nursing home residents fail to use dental services

Most patients at long-term care facilities don’t take advantage of dental services, even when they are free, according to a University at Buffalo study.

The research, published in Special Care in Dentistry, examined the dental and medical records of more than 2,500 residents at the Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Clarence who were discharged between 2008 and 2012.

Only 10 percent received a dental exam at least once during their stay, with the average length of stay two years but nearly half of the patients staying less than a month. Use of dental services ranged from 7 percent for patients who stayed less than a month to 30 percent for those who stayed between a month and two years. Use increased to 55 percent among those who stayed beyond two years.

“There is a problem within the population as a whole toward appreciation for dental care. The perception is that if you don’t have pain, you don’t have a problem,” said Dr. Frank A. Scannapieco,  lead investigator and chairman of the Department of Oral Biology.

New York State requires long-term care facilities to offer dental services upon admission and annually afterwards.


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