(Courtesy of Shalva) People with disabilities continue to be the most underserved demographic in the field of dentistry, despite being at higher risk of severe dental caries in comparison to the general population.
Lack of specialized training in navigating the complexities involved in the dental care for people with disabilities has resulted in a worldwide predicament of inaccessibility to oral healthcare for people with disabilities. In best-case scenarios of developed countries, standard practice for dental care of people with disabilities often involves costly and painful treatments under full sedation in a hospital setting.
This global issue is being tackled by Project Accessible Oral Health (PAOH), a global public-private partnership established to promote equal access to oral healthcare for people with disabilities through its flagship oral health and wellness program for children with disabilities at the Shalva National Center in Jerusalem. Astounding results from the program’s operation and research component, which followed a group of children with intellectual developmental disabilities since they were three years old, were presented at the PAOH “All Smiles Shine Global Summit.”
“We are excited to be at the forefront of disability care and dental care advancement,” said Kalman Samuels, founder and president of Shalva and co-founder of PAOH. “Hundreds of children with disabilities of all ages have been through Shalva’s oral health and wellness program over the years and it has been a truly transformative experience for all of them. It has boosted their quality of life, health and potential for social inclusion. Children who were originally examined with as many as 10 cavities and other dental issues that interfered with their eating and speech are now leading healthy, thriving lives.”
The two-day 2022 PAOH “All Smiles Shine Global Summit” took place at the Shalva National Center and at the Hebrew University Faculty of Dental Medicine. The long-awaited conference, which was postponed twice due to the COVID pandemic, gathered over 100 corporate, academic and professional personalities in the fields of dentistry and disability, among them Steve Kess, VP of Global Professional Relations at Henry Schein; Mark Wolff, dean of Penn Dental Medicine; and Dr. Rick Rader, president of the American Association on Health and Disability.
Shalva’s oral health and wellness program is unique in that it integrates oral health practices into the daily rehabilitative regimens of children with disabilities and involves various circles of contact of the children including; dental professionals, special education teachers and therapists as well as parents and caregivers. The program includes classroom-based activities, supervised daily teeth-brushing, customization of dental products and assistive mechanisms, and a fluoride varnish program four times annually.
The PAOH “All Smiles Shine Global Summit” included lectures from professional and academic leaders in the field of dentistry from Israel and abroad, a private concert by the Shalva Band, as well as a tour of Shalva’s disability accessible oral hygiene and dental clinics.
“The oral hygiene clinic for preventative dentistry at Shalva is the only one of its kind in Israel and in the world to date,” explained Professor Joseph Shapira, professor and former head of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the Hebrew University-Hadassah and director of the Oral Health and Wellness Center at Shalva. Nevertheless, Shalva’s program is designed to be a replicable model, and through partnerships and collaborations formed at the conference, Shalva and the PAOH aim to improve the standard practices of oral healthcare for people with disabilities.