Focusing on Dental Care and Developmental Disabilities

Getting quality dental care for people with developmental disabilities often proves challenging and frustrating.

Too many general dentists simply don’t have adequate training in or experience providing dental care to people with disabilities. The usual dental office sometimes is not prepared to accommodate people with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, or other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Dental visits can become traumatic experiences for the patient and their caregiver—and future visits may get delayed too long as a result.

Making the Difference in Dental Service with Penn Dental Medicine

To provide people with developmental disabilities dental care in comprehensive and compassionate ways, we at Penn Dental Medicine (PDM) offer treatment in the Personalized Care Suite in our Care Center for Persons with Disabilities. It’s an easily accessible, state-of-the-art space, designed to deliver expert dental service to adults who need special accomodations due to their disabilities.

We’re also reaching beyond our office walls and giving people with IDD and their caregivers tools to improve oral hygiene and health at home.

Helping People with Disabilities Achieve Superpowered Smiles

A Penn Dental Medicine initiative, Project Accessible Oral Health (PAOH), is the first global public-private partnership to bring together dental and medical professionals, corporations, organizations, policymakers, educators, people with disabilities, caregivers, and other stakeholders on a national scale in pursuit of equal access to culturally competent oral healthcare.

PAOH has launched All Smiles Shine—a comprehensive outreach effort to raise awareness of everyone’s right to smile, regardless of their disability or ability.

“The All Smiles Shine initiative is dedicated to helping our most vulnerable [patients] meet their oral health care needs, protect their overall health, and live their best lives,” explains Dr. Mark Wolff, Dean of Penn Dental Medicine and a founding member of the PAOH board. “Smiles are a superpower, and everyone deserves one.”

How the All Smiles Shine Digital App Promotes Better Oral Health

A key element of PAOH’s effort is the All Smiles Shine digital app.

Available for free in both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store, the All Smiles Shine app helps the autism and IDD communities learn about oral healthcare, practice preventative care, and prepare for visits to the dental office.

While the app’s colorful, whimsical graphics and simple text target children, it can be a great source of information about autistic dental care and other IDD dental care for adults as well.

The All Smiles Shine app promotes better dental care in the developmental disabilities community by letting users:

  • Customize a Profile

Users’ personalized profiles list interests, sensory preferences, and preferred calming tools and techniques. Share the profile with the dentist to help them treat you or the person in your care most effectively and compassionately.

  • Prepare for the Trip to the Dental Office

The app includes resources that help ensure successful dental visits. Activities let users easily communicate their emotions to caregivers and dental service providers, practice breathing techniques to calm dental fear and anxiety, and customize picture schedules so everyone’s clear on what will happen when at the dentist’s office.

  • Practice Better Oral Hygiene at Home

Videos in the app model effective home dental care. The app also gamifies brushing and flossing habits. It lets users track brushing and flossing habits, and unlock fun characters like King Tooth when they successfully meet various milestones.

  • Discover More About Dental Care and Developmental Disabilities

The app is full of valuable tips, proven techniques, and other resources caregivers can use to help children or adults with disabilities in their care brush and floss more regularly, eat a healthier diet, and more. Better oral health begins at home, and proper oral hygiene can mean fewer trips to the dental office in the long run.

PDM Is Meeting Patients with Developmental Disabilities’ Needs

“Whether you are sick, elderly, have an inherited or an acquired disability, you should be treated as an individual and have your needs met,” says Dr. Wolff..

The All Smiles Shine app is one way to help meet those needs. It’s fun, free, practical, and easy to use. Download the All Smiles Shine app from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play store now.

If you need sensitive, superior dental care for people with developmental disabilities, schedule an appointment at PDM’s Personalized Care Suite online, or call us at 215-898-8180.

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We look forward to serving you and your family.