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⭒ CANHR Advocate Dear Advocate Articles

Dental Check Up Rights

Emergency Dental Services

Dear Advocate,

My husband is in a skilled nursing facility, and for the last month he has been suffering from a severe toothache. The pain is affecting his ability to eat, and I’m worried about further infections. My husband is non-ambulatory and cannot be taken to a dentist. My requests for the nursing home to arrange for a visit from a dentist have gone unanswered. How can I get dental treatment for my husband’s pain? Is the facility responsible for providing a dental check–up?

Frustrated in Fresno

Dear Frustrated in Fresno,

Your concerns are valid. Gone untreated, a toothache can cause infection and could lead to other very serious health problems. Lack of dental care is already affecting his ability to eat and get proper nutrition.

Contact the administrator and request that the facility arrange for a dentist immediately. Skilled nursing facilities must provide or obtain from an outside source routine and emergency dental services to meet the needs of each resident. “Emergency dental services” include services needed to treat an episode of acute pain in teeth, gums, or palate, broken, or otherwise damaged teeth, or any other problem of the oral cavity by a dentist that requires immediate attention.

Facilities must also, if necessary, assist the resident in making appointments, arrange for transportation to and from the dentist’s office, and promptly refer residents with lost or damaged dentures to the dentist.

If the facility continues to ignore your request for dental treatment, contact your local ombudsman program for assistance and/or make a complaint to licensing and certification. (Refer to the CANHR fact sheet on How to File a Nursing Home Complaint.)

Dental care rights are established by Federal Regulations (42 CFR §483.55).