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

have to tell the caregiver," Morgan said.

To explore that issue, he and his colleagues are interviewing 800 people who are caregivers of intellectually and developmentally disabled adults to see where the communication gaps lie.

Meanwhile, the current study provides "more reliable numbers on the degree to which intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals are at lower oral health status than the rest of the population," said Dr. Edmond Hewlett, a professor at the School of Dentistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an American Dental Association spokesperson. "They are more likely to have poor oral health in general including gum disease and untreated decay."

This may be related to their ability to care for themselves.

"Some may be cognitively fine and may have physical limitations and other people may have behavioral limitations," Hewlett said. This issue is further complicated by the fact that so many developmentally disabled people are also economically and socially disadvantaged.

"There is increased evidence about the direct link between oral health and general health," he said. "If an infection in the mouth is left untreated, it could spread through the body and become a bigger issue."

Part of the onus falls on educators who need to teach dental students about the needs of this special population and encourage outreach, experts agree.

"This population is high risk for oral disease usually due to their disabilities in terms of home care and sometimes due to cognitive [brain] and or emotional issues, which make it challenging and more expensive to treat them in conventional office settings," said Saul Pressner, a dentist in private practice in New York City. "We need more in the way of funding for more training programs to help dentists feel more comfortable treating these patients. We also need more facilities that are better equipped to meet these needs and dentists to volunteer their tim
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