Being of Service
Back in February 2022, Inside Dentistry's cover story addressed the plight faced by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) in accessing oral healthcare. This month, our November 2022 cover story reenters the conversation to further elaborate on the oral healthcare challenges experienced by this population and explore some of the specific efforts of universities and organizations to address the need for better education and training for students and practicing dentists as well as to improve access to routine and preventive care.
Although pediatric dentists have long been trained to treat these patients, most general dentists without postdoctoral education have not received any training, which makes it difficult for the caregivers of adults with IDDs to find general practitioners who are able to treat them. Some of these patients require sedation or general anesthesia to be treated, but the reality is that most can be treated outside of hospital settings and without sedation if workflows are modified, appropriate management techniques are employed, and treatment is approached with the compassion and patience required to establish a relationship and help the patient understand what is happening up to his or her level. Dentists and their teams just need to be appropriately trained.
As you'll read in the article, a lot of work toward educating dentists to treat patients with IDDs is being done at the dental schools of the University of the Pacific and the University of Pennsylvania, which have created facilities that both improve access to care locally as well as provide opportunities for students to learn and build confidence. However, more and more universities are getting involved and introducing or expanding IDD education at both the predoctoral and postgraduate levels. At the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, we offer a 1-year postgraduate program for a certificate in Geriatric and Special Needs Dentistry. Beyond dental school, CE experiences and other resources are available for those who are already in practice. With the huge disparity in care that this population experiences in many areas, to truly realize equity, it is incumbent upon all dentists to get involved. You can help make a difference!
Robert C. Margeas, DDS
Editor-in-Chief, Inside Dentistry
Private Practice, Des Moines, Iowa
Department of Operative Dentistry
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa