The oral health problems of individuals with disabilities are complex. These problems may be due to the disability itself as well as to the inability to receive the personal and professional health care needed to maintain oral health. Lack of dental insurance or the inability to pay out of pocket and problems of access contribute to this problem. Also, people with certain disabilities might require a dentist who is specifically trained in treating people with disabilities; however, these specialists are not found in every community.
The American Academy of Pediatrics found that dental care is the most prevalent unmet health care need for children with special health care needs, affecting substantially more children than any other health care need category. Read the full article in the Journal of Pediatrics, 2005.
We are learning more and more about the importance of oral health to overall health and well being. Numerous studies have demonstrated an association between periodontal diseases and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and adverse pregnancy outcomes—ailments that people with disabilities are at higher risk for to begin with.
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Special Care Dentistry Association
International organization of oral health professionals and other individuals who are dedicated to promoting oral health and well being for people with special needs. Provides a forum for oral health and other professionals to communicate, exchange ideas, and work together to improve oral health for people with special needs.
National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped
The National Foundation; a charitable affiliate of the American Dental Association; is committed, through collaboration, to arrange comprehensive dental treatment and long-term preventive services to needy disabled, elderly or medically compromised individuals through a national network of direct service programs that involve volunteer dentists and laboratories.
State Oral Health Program Directors
Contact information for the state dental programs.
University based dental schools often have free or low cost dental clinics that serve people in their communities. This list contains all accredited dental education programs in the United States.
The Grottoes of North America Humanitarian Foundation
The “Special Smiles” program helps cover the costs of dental treatment, including hospital and anesthesia costs, when needed, for children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular disorders, those with mental retardation, and organ transplant recipients.
Other Helpful Resources
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Section on Special Needs
Publications and resources on oral health from the National Institutes of Health
National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center, Special Needs Resources
Resources on promoting oral health care for children with special needs for pubic health professionals, program administrators, educators, policymaker and others with involved with improving health services for infants, children, adolescents, and their families.
Best Practices in Oral Health for Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Special Health Care Needs
Compendium of guidelines and recommendations for improving oral health care of people with disabilities for dental and public health professionals.