Texas A&M professor recognized nationally for providing accessible dentistry to patients with special needs
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M College of Dentistry professor Dan Burch has been recognized as one of 12 health equity heroes. Burch received the honor from DentaQuest for his work in making dental care more accessible for individuals with special needs and/or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
“Recognizing what we’re doing for this community, one of the most underserved communities in America in my opinion, is just an amazing feeling,” Burch said.
Burch said finding a dentist who can accommodate multiple needs can be challenging for many parents nationwide. College Station parent Amber Evans has a son with autism and says she’s feared going into appointments with her son because she didn’t know if they would be able to communicate with him at his level.
“I’m always really fearful of how other people are going to react to him maybe having a time where he’s just not okay,” Evans said.
Marycruz Morales has two sons with a sensory processing disorder. The College Station mother said she fears the unknown before going to appointments with her children.
“Is it going to be too bright, are the machines that they use going to be too loud, are the toothbrushes that they use or the tools that they use going to be too sensitive for their teeth,” Morales said.
These are fears that Burch works daily to end. He created and leads the first minority-centered special care dentistry postdoctoral fellowship at Texas A&M’s College of Dentistry. The Compromised Care and Hospital Dentistry Fellowship aims to train dentists on how to best treat patients with special needs or other disabilities throughout their lifespans.
“If we can just increase the number of general dentists that have positive interactions with patients and have some clinical training with these patients, we incredibly expand the access to care,” Burch said.
The program was launched in 2020 and four dentists have now completed it. Burch hopes the fellowship will become a national standard and be duplicated by more dental schools across the country.
“These patients can not just be left out to dry or left to find their own dentist because it’s their own problem,” Burch said.
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