The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced a new dental public health training program: Oral Health Training Program for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). The program, launched by NCDHHS’s Division of Public Health’s Oral Health Section, aligns with its mission to improve the oral health of North Carolinians and to support dental public health workforce development.
Designing a program specifically for care providers of adults with I/DD living in community Intermediate Care Facilities or Group Homes was paramount because of the critical role care providers have in supporting their residents’ health.
“People with I/DD experience chronic diseases at an earlier age and at higher rates than those without I/DD, making this dental public health training doubly valuable as it connects oral health to overall health,” said Mark Benton, Assistant Secretary for Public Health.
“Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities often have poorer oral health, including untreated tooth decay and gum disease,” said Robin Zeigler, Adult Oral Health Coordinator for OHS. “Because evidence shows an association between oral health and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is good reason to address oral health in this vulnerable population.”
The Oral Health Training Program for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities was created in partnership with members of the OHS Special Care Dentistry Advisory Committee. It closely mirrors an existing program in which OHS Public Health Dental Hygienists delivers training to caregivers in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Monarch and RHA Health Services, two community-based organizations and providers of residential services for people with I/DD, hosted pilot programs in community I/DD facilities as the program was being developed and refined. These partnerships offered deeper understanding of the barriers care providers face and pointed to strategies specific to this population to overcome obstacles.
“Adding Oral Health Training Program for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to our training repertoire provides another path to expand our workforce,” said Dr. Sarah Tomlinson, State Dental Director and OHS Section Chief. “Our staff consider care providers who offer regular toothbrushing support to be an important part of North Carolina’s oral health workforce.”
OHS is offering this new program statewide. For more information, providers can contact Robin Zeigler at Robin.Zeigler@dhhs.nc.gov
For more information on the Oral Health Section, visit publichealth.nc.gov/oralhealth.