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Project promoting equal access to oral care for people with disabilities

Everybody deserves the right to smile, whatever your ability or disability. That’s the message Project Accessible Oral Health (PAOH) wants to send loud and clear on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), their families, and caregivers.

More than two-thirds of the 6.5 million people with IDD in the United States cannot access the dental care they need. The result? A higher burden of dental disease and cavities, which can exacerbate other medical problems, cause significant pain, or create eating and communication challenges.

“Of all the medically underserved populations, people with disabilities have been the most marginalized when it comes to oral health care,” says Dr. Steve Perlman, global clinical director and founder, Special Olympics, and professor, Boston UniversityGoldman School of Dental Medicine.

To bring long overdue attention to this critical issue, PAOH has launched All Smiles Shine, a comprehensive outreach effort sponsored by Delta Dental, Colgate and Henry Schein. The campaign includes:

  • Educational materials for people with disabilities and their families.
  • Training for oral care professionals.
  • An app (Apple App Store or Google Play) to help children with disabilities with oral health and dental visits.

“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. Mark Wolff, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, the administrative home of PAOH. “It is vital that we as a dental community ensure access to care for this vulnerable population.”

“These disparities in oral health care are unfair, unjust, and 100% avoidable,” adds Barbie Vartanian, executive director, PAOH. “The All Smiles Shine initiative is dedicated to helping our most vulnerable meet their oral health care needs, protect their overall health, and live their best lives. Smiles are a superpower, and everyone deserves one.”

Through All Smiles Shine and other initiatives, PAOH and its partners will address three critical needs: policy, education, and awareness. For more information about PAOH and All Smiles Shine please visit www.PAOH.org.

PAOH is a global public-private partnership and the first to nationally assemble and connect dental and medical professionals, corporations, organizations, policymakers, educators, people with disabilities, caregivers, and other stakeholders in pursuit of equal access to culturally competent oral healthcare.

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