Collaboration to Expand Training in Dental Care for the Disabled

Dentistry Today
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AmeriHealth Caritas has partnered with Penn Dental Medicine and Temple University’s Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry as part of its Inclusive Dental program, a new initiative by the company aimed at expanding community-based dental care for people with disabilities. The collaboration also will expand continuing education for dentists on how to manage this special population.

In conjunction with the April 1 launch of Inclusive Dental in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the inaugural continuing education program was held at Temple on March 29 and at Penn Dental Medicine on March 30, drawing more than 80 practitioners from the region. The program included lectures on defining disability; communicating effectively with parents, caregivers, and patients; principles of dental care for persons with disabilities; and treatment options through the lifespan. 

“It is vital that we teach dentists how to deliver care to persons with disabilities in a culturally sensitive way, in the office, in the community setting,” said Penn Dental Medicine’s Morton Amsterdam Dean Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, who committed to Inclusive Dental prior to joining Penn Dental Medicine through his work with national nonprofit Project Accessible Oral Health, which strives to improve access to oral healthcare for the disabled.

“Both Penn and Temple have made institutional commitments to really create a program that begins to address the training needs of dentists,” said AmeriHealth Caritas corporate dental vice president Lawrence Paul, DDS, who also noted that a lack of training is one of the key barriers to treating individuals with disabilities among the company’s network of dental providers.

“While we at Penn and our partners at Temple have made this commitment to develop educational programs for current practitioners, we have an even stronger commitment to developing new practitioners who will be fluent, current, and capable of delivering care,” said Wolff.

“At Penn, we’re devoted to educating every dental student to competency so they are capable of managing people with disabilities in their offices, because if we don’t find a solution to this in the dental offices, we are going to fail,” Wolff said.

Expanding clinical care services for persons with disabilities and increasing the educational experiences with this population for students is a top priority for Wolff, with plans moving forward to create a patient care center at Penn Dental Medicine devoted exclusively to serving these individuals.

“As a dental school, we can bring resources to this issue on multiple levels, through these continuing education programs and educational resources for practitioners in the community, through the hands-on education of our students and by being a center of care in the community,” said Wolff.

AmeriHealth Caritas has recruited a network of 40 dental offices in Philadelphia and the surrounding four counties to offer dental care to its members with disabilities through the Inclusive Dental program. While the program is launching in this region, the company plans to expand it to the other markets it serves throughout the country.

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