Dental Program Brings Care to People with Developmental Disabilities

Chesapeake, Va. Adults with developmental disabilities will receive free oral health services on Saturday, October 18
through a training program designed to teach dental providers how to care for individuals with special health care needs. Dentists are unlikely to receive this type of specialized training in dental school, and many people with developmental disabilities lack dental insurance coverage for routine dental care, such as cleanings or fillings. One program partner reiterated this point, saying, “People with disabilities are not given
the same access to quality care because of their perceived differences and lack of dental insurance.”

The Virginia Oral Health Coalition is spearheading this program, titled “Dental Care Approaches for Adults with Disabilities,” with
funding from the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. The program will teach dentists the necessary techniques to treat patients with special needs and collect firsthand stories from individuals with developmental disabilities and their caregivers to advance policy changes that will increase dental coverage and care options for the nearly 9,000 Virginians with developmental disabilities. Coalition executive director Sarah Holland explains: “The goal is to capture stories that boldly illustrate the need to increase access to care, in order to lay the foundation for true change.”

When you consider the unique physical and social needs of an individual with cerebral palsy or autism, it is clear to see that providing
dental care to this population requires a little extra preparation. Adults with developmentally disabilities are more likely to suffer from gum disease than their typically-developing peers, and periodontal (gum) disease has been tied to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and preterm birth. Regular, preventive dental care can help manage chronic diseases and improve overall health.

The next training program is scheduled for October 17-18 in Chesapeake; the Hampton Roads Dental Center is lending its dental operatory for the event.

Samantha Dorr