Developmentally Disabled Face Many Oral Health Challenges

More care needs to be taken when it comes to the oral health of the developmentally disabled.

A new study indicates that about one-third have untreated cavities, four out of five have gum disease, and one out of 10 have some missing teeth. The information comes from a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The reasons for these oral health problems can often be complicated, according to John Morgan, associate professor in the department of public health and community service at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. The problems stem from the fact that many developmentally disabled people don’t fully comprehend what it means to take care of their oral health. In some cases, they may not be capable of taking the proper action to maintain good oral health.

The group of researchers poured through more than 4,700 dental records of people with some type of intellectual or developmental disorder to compile the data. About 60 percent of the people had a mild or moderate disability and the rest had a major disability. There were about 25 percent that could not tolerate dental treatment, needing anesthesia for a procedure to be done. There were also 40 percent that required some kind of behavioral assistance to allow a dental procedure to be performed.

Part of the problem stems from the trouble caregivers often have in explaining the importance of oral health to the developmentally disabled person.

There are also studies that show that developmentally disabled people usually are in worse health than the rest of the population. This issue correlates with the fact that poor oral health leads to poor overall health.

For developmentally disabled people to receive the same type of dental care as other people, it’s possible that more training needs to be done and more facilities need to be created to accommodate their needs.

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