Demand exceeds supply
Due to the specialized training required, the demand for specialists exceeds the supply. A 2021 investigation by the Office of Developmentally Disabled Special Dentistry Task Force found that no region in New York State has the capacity to treat people with severe intellectual disabilities to profound, many of which require hospital care.
This ends up creating long waiting lists and causing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to wait years for a simple appointment. A few hours of travel for an appointment that should be routine.
That’s why we asked the state to support an initiative to train dental students to care for patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of us, Senator John Mannion, recently offered to allocate $750,000 for dental scholarships to kick-start the effort. The scholarship, successfully piloted last year by New York State Academic Dental Centers, would create a pool of young dentists ready to serve the needs of the disability community.
According to a 2012 University of Rochester study of New York Special Olympics athletes, nearly 30 percent of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities need urgent dental care or have untreated tooth decay.
When these healthcare needs are delayed due to a lack of trained professionals, they lead to the disaster we have now. For too long, disparity in treatment has been ignored or consolidated at the individual level and separated from political initiatives.