Dental access is an issue at the forefront of health care, and this access can be most problematic for dental patients with special needs. In some cases, dentists may have to provide care in a hospital operating room under general anesthesia when a special needs patient presents with complex treatment needs. Appropriate training in special needs dentistry is key for dentists who want to provide this care.
Dr. William Lobb, DDS, Dean of the Marquette University School of Dentistry (MUSOD), met with WHA’s Special Needs Dental Patients Work Group on Friday, May 11 to discuss this issue as this is an area of great interest among current Marquette students. A priority of MUSOD is enhancing training of dental students in special needs dentistry, and Dr. Lobb noted that MUSOD is one of eight dental schools in the U.S. that has a student chapter of the Special Care Dentistry Association.
Lobb told the Work Group that Wisconsin is one of a few states that does not currently have a post-graduate General Practice Residency program, in which special needs dentistry in a hospital setting is an area of emphasis. Dr. Lobb discussed the requirements of a residency program which include sponsorship by a hospital, or an educational institution affiliated with a hospital. He expressed interest in working with WHA and other interested parties to explore establishing a residency program in Wisconsin.
Marquette is also working on another training initiative in special needs dentistry with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Work Group members Dr. Lori Barbeau, DDS, and Pam Fraser of Children’s Hospital have created opportunities for Marquette dental students to observe special needs patient care in the Children’s Dental Clinic. They are also developing a training curriculum for use by practicing dentists who want to learn techniques for treating patients with special needs.
WHA’s Work Group concluded its meeting by discussing funding issues, especially regarding Medicaid reimbursement for dental procedures. The Medicaid program reimburses dental care based on the type of procedure, regardless of how much time the procedure takes. With special needs patients, routine procedures can take much longer than average, but this extra time is not accounted for in the reimbursement formula. Within the next few months, WHA’s Work Group will be developing proposals to address these and other issues affecting patients with special needs.