David Tuller of Kaiser Health News at The Washington Post:
People with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders face enormous barriers to adequate and timely dental care — on top of their other challenges. Many dentists either avoid treating these patients or lack the skills needed to do so. Some patients with developmental disabilities are unable to endure even regular dental exams or cleanings without general anesthesia.
But most dentists don’t offer it and getting insurance to cover it for routine dental work is often a struggle.
Because it is difficult for them to get treatment, people with developmental disorders suffer “a high burden of dental disease,” according to a 2012 study of more than 4,700 patients published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Thirty-two percent of the patients studied suffered from untreated cavities and 80 percent from serious gum infections.
“Many individuals with developmental disabilities cannot personally maintain their own dental hygiene,” according to a September study by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). “Often, they need extra appointments or special accommodations that dentists are unable or unwilling to provide.”
In many cases, patients need these extra appointments to help them get accustomed to the environment of a dental office, including the equipment, procedures and personnel. This can help minimize their anxiety and reduce the need for deep sedation or general anesthesia.
But sometimes there is no alternative to anesthesia.