Talking oral health for people with disabilities: everyone should have access to quality care

Achieving FDI’s Vision 2030 means leaving no one behind. People with disabilities must have access to quality oral healthcare adapted to their needs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) over 1 billion people, about 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. In recent times, disability rates have been increasing considerably due to an increase in ageing population and growth in prevalence and incidence of long-term health conditions. In addition to this, people with disabilities may be more prone to developing oral disease and may not be able to access the oral healthcare they need due to many barriers.

In this interview, distinguished expert Dr Shiamaa Almashhadani, who is currently completing her PhD on improving oral health for children with disabilities at the Dental College, University of Plymouth, highlights the many challenges that patients with disabilities may face when seeking care and how oral health professionals need to adapt to care for those patients.

Everyone should have equitable access to quality oral healthcare

Unfortunately, to this day many disparities still exist in providing oral healthcare for people with disabilities. A person with disability may face stigma, financial hardships, inaccessibility or even communications issues when seeking care. In this interview, Dr Fida Diab, the mother of a girl with Angelman Syndrome – a syndrome that causes significant developmental delays – talks about the many struggles she had to go through to seek dental care for her daughter. She insists that oral health professionals must be made aware of the different needs of patients with disabilities and trained accordingly.

Dr Almashhadani also takes the opportunity to emphasize that people with disabilities typically experience greater levels of oral disease, which is why it is important to provide timely and quality care to ensure good oral health throughout their lives. Watch the full interview to discover the many ways oral health professionals adapt to the needs of people with disabilities and what more can be done at a local, national and global level to ensure that the most appropriate and accessible care is provided.

Ultimately, everyone has the fundamental right to health, including oral health, and access to affordable and quality care services. Therefore, it is critical to include people with disabilities in health policies and strategies to achieve optimal oral health for all.