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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Dental Care

The Politics of Autism discusses health care, and explains that autism services can be complicated, creating difficulties for autistic people and their families. 

Kristen Hwang at CalMatters:
A typical dental office cannot perform general anesthesia nor can it accommodate other disabilities requiring wheelchair lifts or other specialized equipment.

Instead, disabled patients languish on waiting lists for years at the few places that can see them — usually dental schools. When they get an appointment, it’s frequently a financial hardship requiring time off of work for caregivers, long drives from remote areas of the state, overnight hotel stays and out-of-pocket surgical fees.
Without a centralized database, the number of patients that need special dental care is hard to quantify. Approximately 1.3 million children, or 15% of all children, in the state have chronic physical, developmental or behavioral conditions — although of course not all of those require special dentistry. The Department of Developmental Services also serves an estimated 330,000 individuals with disabilities. And California’s growing aging population includes 690,000 seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.

But, according to the dental association, there are only 14 dental schools and surgery centers that can handle these special needs patients. Some hospitals give dentists admitting privileges to perform surgery, but they say it’s often difficult to book operating time.
One of the primary reasons it’s so difficult to find a dentist is that most don’t accept Medi-Cal, the state health plan for its poorest residents, which a majority of people with disabilities rely on. In 2021, about 36% of active licensed dentists in the state accepted Medi-Cal. That number has grown by about 10% since 2017, when the state increased reimbursement rates. However, the number of Medi-Cal enrollees has also grown, reaching 14 million in the past two years.