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Dental Woes Abound for Developmentally Disabled: Study
Date:8/10/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- New research paints a grim picture of the oral health status of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One-third have untreated cavities, 80 percent have gum disease and 10 percent are missing some teeth, the study found.

A growing body of research suggests that oral health affects overall health, and dental issues go far beyond a person's smile. These latest findings appear in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Reasons for the poor oral health among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not always easy to sort out, said study author Dr. John Morgan, an associate professor in the department of public health and community service at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston. Part of it is rooted in poor communication. Many don't fully understand what they should be doing to take care of their mouth, and some may not have the manual dexterity needed to do so. Others may be taking medication that causes dry mouth, which increases risk for cavities and other oral health problems, he said.

Researchers mined electronic dental records of over 4,700 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities taken from a network of Massachusetts dental clinics that serve this group. Among these patients, 61 percent were reported to have a mild to moderate disability, and 39 percent had a severe disability. One-quarter had a limited ability to withstand any dental intervention and required special resources such as general anesthesia. Almost 40 percent needed some form of behavioral assistance to undergo a dental procedure, the study showed.

Often, the caregiver serves as the middleman. "Caregivers can make the whole issue more difficult because rather than saying 'I would like you to brush your teeth this way three times a day' directly to the patient, we
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