Health Care Leaders Convene on Equitable Oral Health for People with IDD
Nearly 100 local, state and national health care leaders gathered to address the challenges and opportunities in providing oral health care to nearly seven million Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), a group that has long been underserved.
The gathering was organized by the Santa Fe Group and held at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, Sept. 6-7, 2022. The Santa Fe Group is an action-oriented think tank with a passion to improve lives through oral health. The Dugoni School for years has been a leader in training health care providers to care for people with IDD, and is also known for its Special Care Clinic and Hospital Dentistry Program, which provides care to thousands of people with IDD each year.
The need is great and growing. In California alone, only 14 dental schools and surgery centers are available to handle the state’s special needs patients, according to a California Dental Association estimate in a recent news report. As a result, many of these patients may wait many months or even years to find a suitable provider.
The symposium covered a wide range of topics including understanding the issues and the types of developmental disabilities that affect people, changing perception and awareness of IDD, visual communication in medical education, diagnostic overshadowing, integrating education into clinical care, political advocacy, addressing barriers to care, and the use of connected technologies and AI to improve the oral health of those with IDD.
The gathering featured presentations and plenary sessions with well-known experts in the field, including Rick Rader, Matthew Holder, Jay Kumar, Steven Perlman, Allen Wong, Paul Subar, Teresa Dolan, Jeannette Diaz, David Fray and others. Parents and self-advocates also were on hand to give their perspectives, and social opportunities included an art appreciation gallery/poetry reading. A humanistic approach was exemplified by the display of photographic artwork of Rick Guidotti from Positive Exposure, which celebrated people with special health care needs in medical and dental education instead of subjects with eyes shaded.
The event also received support from symposium sponsors California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Colgate and Henry Schein Cares Foundation. Symposium brochure design and printing were provided by AEGIS Communications.
“Achieving equitable oral health for those with IDD can only be achieved by individuals with new ideas, lived experiences and collaborative spirit,” said Dr. Allen Wong, the event’s program director who also serves as a Santa Fe Group Senior Fellow in addition to his role as professor and director of the AEGD and Hospital Dentistry Programs at the Dugoni School. “There are no problems too large that great minds cannot solve. The IDD population and their families have suffered in silence long enough — it is time we give them the voice for equity they deserve.”
The Santa Fe Group symposium was held two days prior to the CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry, which attracted thousands of dental professionals to San Francisco.
At the CDA conference, Santa Fe Group hosted a forum, “The Art and Science of Oral Health for Those with Special Needs,” to explore how clinicians can get more involved in caring for people with IDD.
According to the forum organizers, up to 80 percent of those with IDD can be seen in any dental office with very minimal accommodations. However, the subject matter and skills to provide care to this population were not part of most dental school’s curricula, and as a result, the dental profession faces a shortage of providers who feel confident they can meet the needs of IDD patients.
“My heart was touched to see the passion and care from our colleagues in medicine, dentistry, and the community as we listened – truly listened to self-advocates, parent-advocates, and providers. I know that together, we will make a difference and provide equity and access to quality health care for persons with IDD in our families and communities,” said CDA forum moderator Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, dean of the Dugoni School and vice provost of Pacific’s San Francisco Campus, who also currently serves as chair of the board of the American Dental Education Association and as a member of the Santa Fe Group.
The symposium and forum are part of a series of special events being organized by the Santa Fe Group as it celebrates the 25th anniversary of its founding. Learn more on the organization’s website.