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NCD Highlights Scarce Dental Care for Patients with I/DD in Latest Policy Brief

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Press Release

November 21, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Council on Disability (NCD) – a nonpartisan, independent federal agency – today releases its issue brief, “Neglected for too Long: Dental Care for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.”

NCD’s issue brief provides insight concerning the lack of dental care many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) continue to experience due to a shortage of properly trained dental care providers. The brief also explores the glaring neglect for the protection of people with disabilities found within the American Dental Association’s Principles of Ethics & Code of Professional Conduct, generally.

“For too long, many individuals with I/DD have faced significant challenges in finding dental care providers able or willing to treat them, leaving those patients to have to drive several hours away to find a capable clinic or forgo care altogether,” said Clyde Terry, NCD Chairperson. “The effect proper dental care has on preventing larger health concerns and costs cannot be underestimated.”

Quick Report Takes:

  • According to a series of studies, 75% of dental students reported little to no preparation in providing care to people with I/DD.
  • Approximately 60 percent of people in the United States with I/DD rely on Medicaid for their health insurance coverage and Medicaid’s low reimbursement rates often dissuade providers from taking on patients with I/DD who may require more time to treat.
  • The American Dental Association’s Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct does not prohibit a practitioner from refusing to accept a patient based on his or her disability,* but does prohibit other forms of discrimination.

Policy Brief Recommendations:

A sampling of the policy brief’s recommendations includes:

  1. NCD recommends that Congress further amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize additional grants to public and nonprofit dental care providers to deliver, proper dental care to people with I/DD in scarcity areas (geographic areas that are not reasonably accessible to facilities equipped to provide such care), and to bolster loan repayment programs for dentists training or already properly trained in the treatment of people with I/DD and are willing to provide that specialized care in those areas.
  2. NCD recommends a modification to the relevant dental school accreditation requirement. All dental students must have more robust training in the care of I/DD patients, as opposed to simply requiring that dental students be “competent in assessing the treatment needs of patients with special needs.”
  3. NCD recommends that the American Dental Association review its current Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Responsibility and make certain modifications to better reflect the rights of people with disabilities.

Policy Brief: The NCD Policy Brief on dental care for patients with I/DD is available for download at:

* Except for one noted advisory opinion that deems a decision to not treat patients with bloodborne pathogens, based solely on that fact, as unethical.

An official website of the National Council on Disability