Young adults with ID less likely to go to a dentist

By Kim Van Naarden Braun, PhD
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Past studies have shown that people with intellectual disability (ID) tend to have poor oral health and that dental care is an unmet need among this group. Information about dental care among young adults (21-25 years old) with ID is limited.

What did you do in your research?
This study provides information about how often young adults with ID visit the dentist and explores reasons that may limit or promote their dental care use. Specifically, we analyzed information from interviews with young adults (aged 21-25 years) who have different levels of ID and young adults without ID. We compared the groups to find out if things like education, limitations in daily living activities, living arrangements, previous dental health conditions, or other health conditions, were related to dental care use in young adults with ID.

What did you find out?
Fewer young adults with ID visited a dentist at least once per year compared with those without ID (45% vs. 58%). Several reasons may impact how often young adults with ID visit the dentist. For example, dental visits were less common among young adults with ID who were male and had less than a high school education. On the other hand, dental visits were more common among young adults with ID who received vocational services and had limitations in daily living activities (such as bathing).

What are the take-home messages?
Young adults with ID face unique health care and social challenges while transitioning from pediatric to adult dental care. In this study, we found that young adults with ID were less likely to go to a dentist compared with their peers without ID. Young adults with ID, particularly those who do not have a high school education, and their caregivers should be targeted for outreach and education on how to improve their dental health.

To learn more about these findings contact Kim Van Naarden Braun.

Full Journal Article Kancherla, V., Van Naarden Braun, K., Yeargin-Allsopp, M. (2013). Dental care among young adults with intellectual disability. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(5), 1630–1641.

CDC’s website has general information for family caregivers on how to help individuals with disabilities stay safe and healthy:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) website has tips for caregivers of individuals with disabilities on how to help with everyday dental care:

NIH’s website also offers continuing education training for oral health professionals on how to provide oral care for individuals with intellectual disability:

CDC has a variety of exciting public health training programs for students, graduates, and health professionals. Learn more here: