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The School of Dental Medicine opened the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities to meet the needs of people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Credit: Maria Murad

The School of Dental Medicine has opened a new care center to meet the needs of people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The Care Center for Persons with Disabilities opened in Penn Dental’s Robert Schattner Center in December 2020, Penn Today reported. The center is designed to improve access to oral care for patients with disabilities, with accommodations including wide entranceways and corridors, wheelchair lifts, low-stimulation rooms for people sensitive to light or sound, and wayfinding straps for people who are visually impaired.

Dean of the School of Dental Medicine Mark Wolff told Penn Today that caring for patients with disabilities requires dentists to think differently about how to provide oral care.

“This requires a change in our thoughts about what is ideal dentistry to find out what is the ideal accommodation for the patient,” Wolff said.

The center also provides clinical care for medically complex patients, which includes people with medical conditions that may make dental care management complicated such as bleeding or lung disorders, infectious diseases, or cancer, Penn Today reported.

Each dental student will work at the Care Center under faculty supervision, spending about 5% of their fourth year at the center. Wolff told Penn Today he believes that when dental students become familiar with providing care to people with disabilities, then oral care will become more accessible.

In addition to treating patients, the center contains the Colgate Innovation Laboratory, where Penn experts and Colgate scientists work together to create products that improve oral care for people with disabilities.

Wolff told Penn Today the Care Center is part of Penn Dental’s goal to increase access to dental care by caring for patients based on their needs.

“The way I see it, whether you’re sick, elderly, have an inherited or an acquired disability, you should be treated as an individual and have your needs met,” Wolff told Penn Today. “Providing care for all should be a core value to be a good human, and it’s a value we want to impart in our students as they become dentists as well.”

Penn Dental recently expanded their presence in Philadelphia with four community sites and mobile dental care center to better reach underresourced and elderly community members.