Tufts Dental Facilities Serving Individuals with Disabilities to Receive National Award

Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Academic Dental Institution recognizes Tufts University School of Dental Medicine’s leadership in providing care to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities
December 2, 2014

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Siobhan Gallagher

BOSTON (Dec. 2, 2014) — Tufts Dental Facilities Serving Individuals with Disabilities, a network of clinics that provides comprehensive oral health care to adults and children with intellectual, developmental, or acquired disabilities, has been announced as the winner of the William J. Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Academic Dental Institution, part of the William J. Gies Awards for Vision, Innovation and Achievement. Tufts Dental Facilities is the recipient of this distinction for advancing dental education to improve care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The award will be presented by the ADEAGies Foundation at a ceremony in March 2015.

Tufts Dental Facilities Serving Individuals with Disabilities (TDF) is the only state-wide oral health care network in the nation for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has operated these clinics, located throughout the state of Massachusetts, since 1976. The TDF clinics provide direct care to patients, train oral health practitioners, and have led to landmark studies on the oral healthcare status of persons with I/DD.

Individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities face challenges obtaining access to oral health care and have a high risk of oral health disease. Patients with I/DD may have difficulty articulating medical or dental concerns, behavioral challenges that require treatment modifications, and/or physically and medically compromising conditions. Many private practitioners do not have the educational training or office facilities to accommodate patients with I/DD, or the extra staff typically required to manage additional administrative and insurance obligations.

“TDF is a national leader in fostering better health outcomes for patients with I/DD. The clinics provide a model for population-based care and for training dental practitioners to provide care to individuals with I/DD,” said Mark Nehring, D.M.D., M.Ed., M.P.H., Delta Dental of Massachusetts professor in public health and community service and chair, department of public health and community service at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. “We are honored to receive the distinction of outstanding achievement from the ADEAGies Foundation, which provides a platform for raising awareness about the oral healthcare needs of persons with disabilities around the nation.”

To increase the capacity of community dentists to provide care to individuals with I/DD, all fourth-year students at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine are trained in a special care rotation in TDF clinics. Additionally, dentists in the post-graduate general practice residency program spend about 25 percent of their time working with patients with I/DD – significantly more than they would at a typical hospital or community health center. This training program has been partially extended to Maine. The TDF clinics also provide training to dental assisting and dental hygiene students.

In addition to providing care and education, the TDF clinics have fostered landmark studies on the oral health status of individuals with I/DD. In 2012, public health researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine used records from more than 4,700 TDF patients to create the country’s largest database of information on the oral healthcare status of patients with I/DD. The resulting study -- funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health -- determined that access to care alone is not sufficient to meet the I/DD population’s substantial oral health needs. A follow-up study published earlier this year suggests that, in addition to addressing access to care, policy initiatives must improve support for caregivers.

Originally established as a result of lawsuits about institutionalized care in Massachusetts in the 1970’s, seven of the eight TDF clinics operate under a contractual partnership with the state’s Departments of Developmental Services and of Public Health. In recent years, the state’s share of the operational cost has decreased from 50 to 25 percent, requiring TDF to rely more heavily on revenue from Medicaid reimbursement. This has been a challenge because of flat Medicaid reimbursement rates, billing restrictions, and overall increases in overhead and cost of living expenditures. Approximately 95 percent of TDF’s patients are covered through MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program.

An eighth clinic in the TDF network is run in partnership with the Seven Hills Foundation. Altogether, the Tufts Dental Facilities clinics are a dental home to more than 7,000 current patients.

The Gies Awards, named after dental education pioneer William J. Gies, Ph.D., honor individuals and organizations exemplifying dedication to the highest standards of vision, innovation and achievement in dental education, research and leadership. William Gies was a Columbia University biochemistry professor and founder of the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University. In 1926, Dr. Gies published a landmark report, called Dental Education in the United States and Canada, which established the importance of dentistry as a healing science and an essential component of higher education in the health professions.

The William J. Gies Foundation, created in 1950, was the first U.S. foundation to support dental education and scholarship. In 2002, the foundation joined with the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) to form ADEAGies Foundation, the presenter of the Gies Awards. As the voice of dental education, ADEA leads individuals and institutions of the dental education community to address contemporary issues influencing education, research and the delivery of oral health care for the improvement of the health of the public. ADEA members -- which include all U.S. and Canadian dental schools and many allied and advanced dental education programs, corporations, faculty and students -- engage in ADEA’s wide-range of research, advocacy and faculty development activities.

About Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

Founded in 1868, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) is committed to leadership in education, patient care, research, and community service. Students obtain an interdisciplinary education, integrated with medicine, with access to training in dental specialties. Clinics managed at TUSDM provide quality comprehensive care to more than 18,000 diverse individuals annually, including those with special needs. Nationally and internationally, the School promotes health and educational programs and researches new procedures, materials and technologies to improve oral health.

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