Special care

Posted by watchmen
June 13, 2024


By Dr. Joseph D. Lim

Maintaining oral health has beneficial effects on the overall well-being.

And yet, oral health care for persons with disability (PWD) receives low priority in Southeast Asia, according to a recent study on disability and oral health among member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

And to think that ASEAN can afford taking care of PWDs. Afterall, it is among the most progressive of the world’s regional economic groupings. ASEAN includes the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

ASEAN as a single entity is the fifth largest economy in the world by gross domestic product, behind the United States, European Union, China, and Japan. It is emerging as a global economic powerhouse, with an aggregate economic size of almost US$2.6 trillion.

Poor oral health suggests a need to train more dental care providers, according to the study on disability and oral health in ASEAN. It also suggests that social perceptions remain a challenge in special care dentistry services, and that more government support is necessary to improve disability and poor oral health.

It is an overlooked health aspect, within impoverished communities, the study observes. “A purposeful effort is paramount to internally align national strategies, in order to achieve equity for disability and oral health in ASEAN.”

The study, conducted from September 2018 to June 2020, involved an electronic survey of dentists with specialty training within the International Association of Disability and Oral Health’s network. The study then categorized the “barriers” and “improvements” in oral health care.

Adequate and appropriate training should be given the highest priority, the dentists point out. Patients point out deemed low oral health literacy or the inability to perceive oral health issues as the most important. Collectively, social perception was considered a key “challenge in dental practices” for PWDs.

The study suggests “ways to collaborate” in engagement, advocacy, policies, specialty, and upskilling. When implementing improvements for the disadvantaged, one has to reflect if the suggested solutions would indeed create the intended social impact for PWDs.

It points to the concept of “theory of change” to address the low “ability to perceive.” Communities, institutions and healthcare services could implement training on oral health.

Previous studies showed how oral health educational programs for special care service providers and caregivers successfully improved oral hygiene in the long term for PWDs.

“This theory of change has to be person-centered to address the first step — approachability — and spur subsequent steps of health-seeking behaviors,” the study says.

Another common theme among the survey responses was commissioning special care dentistry as a recognized dental specialty, which was also raised as an area of collaboration for the PWD community.

It is significant that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been ratified by all member states in the ASEAN.


Dr. Joseph D. Lim, Ed. D., is the former Associate Dean of the College of Dentistry, University of the East; former Dean, College of Dentistry, National University; Past President and Honorary Fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy; Honorary Fellow of the Japan College of Oral Implantologists; Honorary Life Member of the Thai Association of Dental Implantology; and Founding Chairman of the Philippine College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail jdlim2008@gmail.com or text 0917-8591515.


Dr. Kenneth Lester Lim, BS-MMG, DDM, MSc-OI, graduated Doctor of Dental Medicine, University of the Philippines, College of Dentistry, Manila, 2011; Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management, De La Salle University, Manila, 2002; and Master of Science (MSc.) in Oral Implantology, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, 2019. He is an Associate Professor; Fellow, International Congress of Oral Implantologists; Member, American Academy of Implant Dentistry and Fellow, Philippine College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail limdentalcenter@gmail.com./WDJ

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