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J Can Dent Assoc. 2010;76:a8.

Mount Sinai Hospital dental program for persons with disabilities: role in undergraduate dental education.

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Pediatric dentistry, Faculty of dentistry, University of Toronto, 124 Edward Street, Toronto, ON M5G 1G6.


Access to dental care for persons with special needs or disabilities continues to be a problem. This population is known to have a high incidence of dental disease, but unfortunately oral health is a significant unmet health need in many cases. To address this need, the Mount Sinai Hospital Dental Program for Persons with Disabilities was developed over 30 years ago by staff within the discipline of pediatric dentistry at the faculty of dentistry of the University of Toronto. Undergraduate students receive hands-on clinical training in dental management of persons with disabilities, the majority of whom have a developmental disability and could receive care in a community-based dental practice. This program has been successful, but access to community care is still an issue for the population served. Two new initiatives have been introduced in an attempt to develop personal links between persons with disabilities and future dentists, the first a series of lectures given by persons with disabilities and the second a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the need for dental care for persons with disabilities. Among other activities, the organization sponsors a community-based event called Sharing Smiles Day, which brings together dental students and persons with disabilities in a carnival-like setting where the emphasis is on personal interactions. Dental preventive education is also provided but is of secondary importance. These initiatives and the program as a whole represent recognition of the responsibility of educators to ensure that new graduates have both the education and the desire to provide needed dental care to persons with disabilities.

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