It is not uncommon for young disabled adults to develop problems in their early 20s, after going a few years without regular treatment once aging out of dental health care programs that only apply to children.
A recent article in the Vancouver Globe and Mail highlighted many of the difficulties that dentists and disabled adult patients have in finding or providing adequate dental care.
One of the more compelling examples in the article is Graeme Rush, a 26-year-old man with autism who is unable to speak or write. After acting out in numerous ways, including repeatedly smashing his head against a wall, Graeme?s parents suspected that he was having severe tooth pain. While Graeme regularly allowed caregivers to brush and floss his teeth, any exposure to more advanced dental products such as needles or drills made him incredibly uncomfortable, to the point of needing to be placed under general anesthesia. Because of this, Graeme doesn?t get access to dental care as often as he should, and at his last visit, was found to have over a dozen cavities and the need for 5 immediate emergency root canals.
The problem is so common in British Columbia as a recent report titled, ?Help! Teeth Hurt: Government?s Obligation to Provide Timely Access to Dental Treatment to B.C. Adults Who Have Developmental Disabilities: A Legal Analysis,? proves. The above mentioned article explains that the report title?s first 3 words, ?refer to Carly Fleischmann, a Toronto woman who is autistic and nonverbal and is reported to have typed this message when she learned to communicate using a computer at age 10.? Regardless of age, for severely disabled individuals, the basic ability to complain is often an impossibility, leaving it hard for untrained caregivers to know when dental care issues arise. Similarly, a lack of up-to-date education for caregivers often leaves them unaware of new dental products or new dental materials that might help a disabled adult.
If you?re looking for new ways to help contribute to the oral health and happiness of your community, consider proactively reaching out to adults with disabilities. They may not be able to reach out to you.