A disability may make brushing and flossing a challenge and some family caregivers may not have proper training in how to assist with oral health care. In addition, disabled patients may be unable to communicate their aches and pains, all reasons why dental care for patients with developmental disabilities is extremely important.
Tufts, in partnership with the state, operates 7 dental clinics across Massachusetts that specialize in care for the developmentally disabled. Originally located at the 7 state schools for the developmentally disabled in the 1970?s, when dental care for the disabled was subpar, several of the dental clinics have since relocated into offices near those communities, which has immensely increased the quality of service available for the disabled.
The clinics are also sites for teaching future dentists as each Tufts dental student is required to spend at least 1 week working in a facility learning about treatment of the developmentally disabled. In recent years, the clinics have also become locations for research on dental care for those with disabilities, in hopes that further research can lead to improvement in the quality of care.
Jointly funded from Medicaid reimbursements, the Department of Developmental Services and the state Department of Public Health, the Tufts dental program is a unique way to provide support for caregivers while serving those who may not be able to care for themselves.