WHA’s Special Needs Dental Patients Work Group Begins its Work

November 03, 2017

WHA’s engagement in access to oral health care is one example of WHA’s work beyond the hospital walls.  As part of its oral health care agenda, WHA recently formed a Special Needs Dental Patients Work Group, which held its first meeting October 31. The goal of the work group is to develop a proposal to address the severe lack of dental care in Wisconsin for patients with special needs.

Dental patients with special needs are individuals with physical, medical, developmental or cognitive conditions resulting in substantial functional limitations which require treatment modifications in order to provide them with comprehensive oral health care services. Treatment modifications may include providing dental care in a hospital setting under general anesthesia, and many Wisconsin hospitals are currently providing surgical suite access to dentists to treat patients with special needs.

Members of the work group are:

  • Mark Hamilton, Vice President, UW Hospital and Clinics and Executive Director of Wisconsin Dialysis, Madison
  • Steve Francaviglia, President, Greater Milwaukee South Market, Aurora Health Care
  • Donna Gliniecki, Social Worker, Marshfield Clinic, Wausau
  • Ron Bullen, Director of Surgical Services, Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital/ProHealth Care, Waukesha
  • Chris Brabant, Executive Director Surgical Services, HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center, Green Bay
  • Sandra Brekke, Senior Consultant Population Health, Gundersen Health System, La Crosse
  • Lori Barbeau, DDS, Medical Director, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Dental Center, Milwaukee
  • Pamela Fraser, Director, Dental Services, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

The work group identified barriers to adequate and consistent access to necessary dental treatment for these patients. The barriers include poor Medicaid reimbursement for dental procedures, a lack of training opportunities in Wisconsin for hospital-based dentistry, a need for care coordination, an insufficient comfort level among dentists working with complex special needs dental patients, a shortage of dentists with higher level sedation permits, and a shortage of sufficiently equipped dental suites in hospitals.

The work group will meet again before the end of the year to review information on patients with special needs and identify policies that could address the barriers to care identified at its first meeting.

For more information on the Special Needs Dental Patients Work Group, contact Laura Rose, WHA vice president, policy development, at lrose@wha.org.

This story originally appeared in the November 03, 2017 edition of WHA Newsletter