Grant for Online Training in Special Needs Dentistry Awarded to Dr. Richard Fleming

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have "more untreated caries and a higher prevalence of gingivitis and other periodontal diseases than the general population" (NIDCR, 2009). In order to address this health care disparity, more dentists are needed who understand this population and are trained to meet their needs, however, few in-depth training options are currently available for dentists in general practice.

Dr. Richard Fleming, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center in Waltham obtained grant support, in conjunction with Praxis, Inc., from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of an online training program in special needs dentistry for dentists in general practice. Collaborators from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine will assist in the project. The course will be developed and tested through a host of systematic formative and summative evaluation methods.

The program, named Developmental Disabilities Dentistry Online, will be available anytime, anywhere and, importantly, will exploit advances in media-supported instructional technology, to include virtual clinical simulations, interactive case studies, video from expert dentists and dental hygienists, embedded self-assessments and note-taking options. Course modules will address risk management, preventive care, medical considerations associated with specific disabilities, restorative dentistry, behavioral support techniques, and a special section on autism spectrum disorders. Video interviews with patients and parents of young patients with disabilities will provide important information regarding the unique needs of people with special needs.

The goal of the three-year project is to develop a commercially viable software prototype that offers an effective curriculum for preparing dentists in general practice to better provide services to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The course will offer continuing medical education credit and course credit for use in schools of dentistry and dental hygiene.

Dr. Fleming has helped develop other successful online courses to teach parents, paraprofessionals, early intervention professionals and others who live or work with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities practical tools for effecting behavior change. In 2008, Dr. Fleming and his colleagues earned the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) Award for the Most Outstanding Online Learning and Teaching Program for the Online Graduate Behavioral Intervention in Autism Program, offered in partnership with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Related links:
Shriver Center's distance learning courses