Sarah's Story

For patients with special needs, something as simple as a toothache can be devastating. The Pacific Center for Special Care and its partners are dedicated to improving the lives and oral health of these patients. Please read the stories of real people we've helped through our efforts. We hope they will help you realize the importance of preventive and ongoing oral health care and systems for managing care for people with special needs.

Sarah's Story

What if you couldn't tell people where it hurt? That's what happened to Sarah, a 21-year-old female born with Pierre-Robin syndrome and autistic tendencies.

Sarah was living comfortably in a group home until she suddenly stopped eating, began throwing herself into walls and screaming. Because she can only communicate through physical gestures, it became nearly impossible for caregivers to figure out what was wrong. Sarah's behavior became so erratic that she was admitted to a locked psychiatric facility. The cost of this type of placement is over $150,000 a year to the State of California, in addition to the cost in human suffering for Sarah and her family.

Fortunately, a specially trained dental coordinator employed by the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center, as a part of the Community-based System for Oral Health for People with Special Needs, was asked to intervene. During the visit she concluded that Sarah was actually suffering from untreated dental pain. She located a source for treatment, and within 24 hours of being treated, Sarah was eating and smiling again.

Sarah is once again living happily in the community. Had these resources not been available, she might still be living in a locked facility and suffering needlessly.

Sarah's story underscores how critical it is to have dental benefits for those who are unable to care for their own oral health, including people who are aged, blind or disabled. Equally important is the community-based system and the dental coordinators who provide screenings, referrals, preventive training and the development of necessary community resources for people with special needs in California.