Studies show that disabled people are more likely than able bodied people to have cavities, gum disease and other dental problems. They are also less likely to have healthy oral hygiene habits and regular checkups.
The problem is twofold, really. First, people with disabilities, whether physical or intellectual, require specialized dental care. And second, that kind of care isn’t as readily available to disabled people as it once was.
Until deinstitutionalization in the 1960s and 70s, those with mental health or development disabilities would typically undergo routine dental care in the institutions where they resided. After deinstitutionalization, the disabled and their caregivers were left with the responsibility of dental care and, as a result, it’s often been neglected.
Recently, the American Dental Association and other organizations have been pushing for more training for dentists and caregivers in regards to dental care for the disabled. That training focuses not just on making dental offices more physically accessible, but also educating dentists on ways of communicating with special needs patients to get them to feel more at ease when they’re having a procedure.
In the case of moderate to severely disabled patients, it is often necessary to administer general anesthesia to the patient so that they can undergo even the most routine of dental procedures. This is because most behavioral remedies do not work on this category of patient.
If you or a loved one are physically or mentally disabled and require the services of a dentist trained specifically in your type of case, it is possible to find someone in your area, but it may take some research. Your insurance company or your state department of health and human services may be able to recommend someone. Or, referral services and websites may be able to help as well.
Posted on behalf of David Kurtzman
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