Dental school students will soon be required to learn how to care for patients with disabilities under new guidelines from The Commission on Dental Accreditation, which approved the new standards this summer.


The Commission on Dental Accreditation approved new standards this summer requiring all U.S. dental schools to train students in the assessment and management of patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, among other special needs populations.

The change means that by mid-2020, schools that offer degrees in dentistry, orthodontics, dental hygiene and dental assistant programs must include clinical training with a “special needs” population of patients in their graduation requirements or risk losing their accreditation.

The National Council on Disability helped push for the change in standards after publishing a report in 2017 showing that adults with developmental disabilities are at higher risk for poor oral health and face multiple barriers to accessing care, including a shortage of appropriately trained professionals.

The change in dental education standards is a “huge breakthrough” after 20 years of work from dental professionals and disability advocates, said Amged Soliman, attorney advisor with the council.

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