Elder Abuse

It is estimated that there are between one and two million injured, exploited, or mistreated elders in this country each year. Elder abuse is highly under-reported: Only 1 in 14 cases is reported to the authorities.

A first presentation of abuse or neglect may be oral signs or symptoms including:

  • Broken, neglected teeth or dentures
  • Black eye or broken nose
  • Bruises to chin, earlobes, especially if at varying stages of healing
  • Finger marks on face or neck
  • Poor hygiene
  • Signs of malnutrition or dehydration
  • Unexplained or implausible injuries

Broken Teeth

B. J. Brown, RDH, MS
B. J. Brown, RDH, MS

Other common signs of abuse or neglect include:

  • Many visits to the emergency department or multiple medical practices
  • Aspiration/choking from forced feeding
  • Pressure ulcers, especially if not cared for
  • Contractures
  • Broken glasses
  • Traumatic, patchy hair loss
  • Failure to keep medical appointments


Red Flags of Abuse Fact Sheet. National Center on Elder Abuse. Accessed March 9, 2018

Healthcare (Basel). 2020 Sep; 8(3): 281. Published online 2020 Aug 20. doi: 10.3390/healthcare8030281.