The Kornberg School of Dentistry is expanding its efforts to teach dental students how to accommodate people with disabilities.
The Kornberg School and Penn Dental Medicine began an Inclusive Dental program at the end of March to teach practicing dentists and students how to treat people with disabilities. The program partners with AmeriHealth Caritas, a Philadelphia-based health care management company that helps low-income people and people with chronic illnesses.
Dental care providers who are enrolled in the AmeriHealth program will be given up to a 10 percent reimbursement by the health care provider for all dental services, said Amid Ismail, dean of the Kornberg School.
The program’s goal is to make community-based dental care more accessible for people with disabilities. This dental care brings services to patients, rather than providing care in an office setting, and is designed for people who are homebound or have other barriers to accessing care, said Mark Wolff, dean of Penn Dental Medicine.
“Disabilities can occur throughout the lifetime,” Wolff said. “Persons with disabilities require a special care and an understanding of how to best accommodate them.”
Melissa Young, a senior journalism major, suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which limits her movement. Young uses a wheelchair and said a dentist that could come to her would be more accommodating.
“It is hard to go to dentist offices because all of the ones in my area have stairs,” Young said. “It’s also hard because a dentist has to be willing to treat me in my chair, since I can’t get out myself.”
Kornberg and Penn Dental School also trained practicing dentists at a two-day program on March 29 and 30 to “Practice without Pressure,” which is a concept created by Practice Without Pressure Pike Peak, a Delaware-based dental practice that specializes in treating people who feel uncomfortable at the dentist.
“Prevention is key,” Ismail said. “Instead of waiting for someone in six months to have a significant tooth decay and it reaches the nerve of the tooth then they have to be put to sleep to treat them, this breaks the cycle.”
It will offer lectures to dental students on identify a range of disabilities, provide preventive care, discuss long-term treatment options and communicate with parents and those who care for people with disabilities.
“It’s about desensitizing a patient so they can sit in a dental chair,” Ismail said. “For a patient with attention deficit [disorder, for example], they should be in a quiet room with a limited amount of [tools] coming out of a dental chair that normally scare people.”
The training program will be helpful for knowing how to treat patients who need additional care, said Stephanie Tran, 26, a fourth-year dental student at Kornberg, who said she’s worked with patients who have autism spectrum disorder.
“There are varied characteristics of autism where they can be over stimulated or under stimulated and more resistant to change,” Tran said. “You just have to adapt and express what you need to get done in that treatment.”