Event Addresses Oral Healthcare for the Disabled

Dentistry Today
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The Viscardi Center’s Project Accessible Oral Health Initiative held its first “Take a Dental Health Day—Screening and Education for the Disability Community” on Friday, October 26. More than 75 dentists, dental residents, dental students, and volunteers educated and treated more than 200 children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities at the center in Albertson, New York. 

Held in conjunction with the Nassau County Dental Society, the event was designed to raise awareness about what its organizers call the number one healthcare crisis in the disability community today, equal access to culturally competent oral healthcare.

“Our new ‘Take a Dental Health Day’ was the first time in the center’s 65-year history that it hosted an oral healthcare focused event,” said John D. Kemp, president and CEO of the Viscardi Center and chairman of Project Accessible Oral Health. 

“Many of the students and individuals screened have not been able to access, afford, or experience appropriate dental care or find a consistent, accessible dental home where a potentially critical dental issue could be caught early,” said Kemp. 

“We couldn’t be more proud to create and launch this proactive initiative. Based on its success, we hope to work with our partners to replicate ‘Take a Dental Health Day’ across the country,” Kemp said.

“Project Accessible Oral Health is proof that its unique ‘Take a Dental Health Day’ event is able to effectively fulfill all three pillars of our organization’s mission,” said Barbie Vartanian, executive director of Project Accessible Oral Health.

“Through this event, we are able to educate the patient, caregiver, and public about best practice in oral hygiene and the critical need for access to culturally competent oral healthcare providers for those with disabilities,” said Vartanian.

“It also is an opportunity for lawmakers to learn about policy gaps and how we can work together to close those gaps. Finally, we are able to leverage our marketing capacity to raise awareness and expand our network of stakeholders who share our passion to make change happen,” Vartanian said. 

The program featured varnish applications, interactive education including puppets and videos, dental report cards highlighting dental issues, assistance in finding appropriate dental homes, and goody bags to reinforce good oral health at home.

Unequal access to oral healthcare is the number one unmet health need among the 57 million people with disabilities in the United States, the center says, resulting in a lack of preventive care and leading to higher costs and a negative impact on overall health.

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