Everybody deserves the right to smile, whatever their ability or disability. That is the message Project Accessible Oral Health (PAOH) wants to send loud and clear on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), their families, and caregivers.
More than two-thirds of the 6.5million people with IDD in the United States cannot access the dental care they need. The result? A higher burden of dental disease and cavities, which can exacerbate other medical problems, cause significant pain, or create eating and communication challenges.
“Of all the medically underserved populations, people with disabilities have been the most marginalised when it comes to oral health care,” said Dr Steve Perlman, global clinical director and founder, Special Olympics, and professor, Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
To bring long overdue attention to this critical issue, PAOH has launched All Smiles Shine, a comprehensive outreach effort sponsored by Delta Dental, Colgate and Henry Schein. The campaign includes:
- Educational materials for people with disabilities and their families
- Training for oral care professionals
- An app (Apple App Store or Google Play) to help children with disabilities with oral health and dental visits
“Whether you are sick, elderly, have an inherited or an acquired disability, you should be treated as an individual and have your needs met,” said Dr Mark Wolff, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, the administrative home of PAOH. “It is vital that we as a dental community ensure access to care for this vulnerable population.”
“These disparities in oral health care are unfair, unjust, and 100% avoidable,” added Barbie Vartanian, executive director, PAOH. “The All Smiles Shine initiative is dedicated to helping our most vulnerable meet their oral health care needs, protect their overall health, and live their best lives. Smiles are a superpower, and everyone deserves one.”
Through All Smiles Shine and other initiatives, PAOH and its partners will address three critical needs: policy, education, and awareness.