Although a significant number of people live full lives with disabilities, others find themselves underserved in the dental community. Their medical conditions and/or disabilities often exhaust all of their financial resources, and dental care through public programs is scarce for adults.
Serving Indigent Disabled, Elderly and Medically Compromised People
Realizing the lack of care for the needy disabled, the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped was created to provide dental services to needy disabled, elderly or medically compromised individuals. Also known as the NFDH, the Foundation collaborates with dental professionals to provide volunteer dental care for truly indigent patients with special needs. As a charitable affiliate of the American Dental Association, NFDH has earned a strong reputation through its outreach programs.
The National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped has three established programs designed to improve the oral health of the disabled:
- Donated Dental Services (DDS) Program -- NFDH uses volunteers to provide dental treatment and appliances to special needs patients who cannot afford treatment, yet do not qualify for public aid. Over 13,000 dentists and 3,000 dental laboratories are enrolled in the program. So dentists and laboratories can focus on what they do best, a DDS Coordinator acts as a liaison between the patient and the volunteer.
- Bridge/Campaign of Concern (New Jersey and Colorado only) -- This outreach program is focused on providing services to people who are developmentally disabled. In New Jersey, it brings dental hygienists to schools, vocational centers and group homes. Bridge helps reduce the possibility of dental disease by providing preventive educational services and oral screenings to determine the need for treatment. In Colorado, activity is focused on providing training to caregivers of developmentally disabled people in order to help them prevent dental disease from occurring.
- Dental HouseCalls (Colorado, Illinois and New Jersey only) -- Disabled and elderly patients who are housebound may not be getting the professional dental care they need, and the results can be devastating. Those who cannot be accommodated at a dental office often benefit from dental visits at home. A portable dental office is transported by van to homes, nursing homes, daycare programs or residential centers and set up in-house by a full-time coordinator, who also schedules the appointments. Through this program, dentists are able to provide a wide range of dental services for free or at a reduced fee.
Fortunately, there are many resources to help indigent special needs patients get the dental care they need. Many dental offices are able to accommodate disabled patients, and public aid programs offer assistance to those who qualify. If these resources are unable to meet your needs, the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped may be of assistance. For more information, visit the NFDH website at www.nfdh.org/joomla_nfdh.