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People with developmental disabilities face greater oral health problems and are more prone to dental diseases than other patients, and may need extra precautions or care. (Photograph: Sergey Mironov/Shutterstock)
Dec 10, 2014 | News Americas

US dental school awarded for providing care to disabled patients

by Dental Tribune International

BOSTON, USA: Tufts Dental Facilities Serving Individuals with Disabilities, a network of dental clinics in the state of Massachusetts, has been named winner of the William J. Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Academic Dental Institution. The clinics provide comprehensive oral health care to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Such persons often have limited access to care and higher risk of oral diseases.

In contrast to other patients, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities may have difficulty articulating concerns about health conditions or treatments. In addition, only few practitioners and office staff undergo the educational training that is required to treat this patient group and manage additional administrative and insurance obligations.

In order to improve care for this patient group, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has operated Tufts Dental Facilities Serving Individuals with Disabilities for almost four decades. Established in 1976, the facilities form the only statewide oral health network in the U.S. for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

All fourth-year students at the school are trained through special care rotation in the clinics. Moreover, dentists in the postgraduate general practice residency program spend about 28 percent of their time working with patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities—significantly more than they would at a hospital or community health center, according to the university.

In addition to care and educational programs, the clinics have been involved in a number of landmark studies on the oral health status of disabled patients. The latest study, which was published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, found that access to specialized dental care alone is not sufficient to meet the oral health needs of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that many caregivers need additional training and support for promoting effective at-home oral care.

The Gies Awards for Vision, Innovation and Achievement were named after dental education pioneer Dr. William J. Gies. Since 2008, the American Dental Education Association has recognized individuals and organizations that exemplify the highest standards in oral health and dental education, research and leadership.

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