July 31, 2010; Source: Pittsburgh Tribune Review | For people with developmental or intellectual disabilities a visit to the dentist is sometimes too overwhelming to make treatment possible. But Accessible Dental Services, a Marshall, Penn. nonprofit is making inroads to change that.

Accessible Dental has created a new mobile dental unit—a RV equipped with two dental chairs—to bring care to those who couldn’t otherwise get it. The mobile unit is paid for with grants from the Highmark and FISA foundations, and works with 48 agencies and 130 families.

Karen Noah, director of Accessible Dental Services, told Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that problems people with disabilities face in getting dental care don’t end with accessibility. Problems range from poor Medicaid reimbursement rates, noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, some dentists’ refusal to treat the disabled, and severe patient anxiety.

Accessible Dental is partnering with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine to train dentists to give people with disabilities the specific care they need. People are driving as much as three hours to get the services Accessible Dental provides. “That shows how serious a problem this is,” Noah, the director of the program, said.—Aaron Lester