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Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Access to Care for Individuals with Disabilities


$100 Enroll

Full course description

People with special physical, medical, psychological or other special health care needs often find it challenging to get dentalcare, even if they have medical or dental insurance. The lack of well-trained and qualified providers willing to work with individuals with disabilities and other special health care needs in the dental setting is a significant challenge this population faces when accessing care. (Gonzalez, EE. et al., 2013).

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), which in 2019 submitted a task force report that outlines how untreated dental problems remain rampant among underserved communities due to barriers that prevent access to dental services. The role of the dentist, dental hygienist and other oral health professionals in providing care, training and support to these individuals is essential for the development of successful oral health programs aimed at improving access and reducing disparities (Gonzalez, EE. et al., 2013).

The development of the training modules “Breaking the Barriers: Enhancing Access to Dental Care for Individuals with Disabilities” led by Dr. Elmer Gonzalez aims to bridge the gap between the oral health professionals’ knowledge and understanding of the different conditions, special health care needs and disabilities and the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities in accessing dental health care services due to the lack of providers who are willing to break the barriers. 

These modules anticipate to reach dental and allied health students, oral health professionals and those who live in rural/isolated areas in New Mexico. In a broader perspective, the modules are also aimed to those professionals who want to expand or enhance their knowledge and skills regardless of where in United States or other parts of the world they live and work, as these modules are accessible to everyone who is willing to enhance access to dental care for individuals with disabilities. 

Other aims of the modules include: 

  • Educate members of the dental care team – dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, office staff and allied health care students to become better skilled at working with patients and their families regardless of medical condition, special health care need or disability.
  • Satisfy nationwide Continuing Education Unit requirements.
  • Satisfy New Mexico requirements for state certification in treating patients with special needs.
  • Address the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) requirements that dental professionals learn how to treat patients with special needs. CODA defines special needs as patients with medical, physical, psychological, cognitive or social conditions, vulnerable older adults, and people with complex medical conditions.