Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) 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 and are trained to meet the needs of this population. Few in-depth training options are currently available for dentists in general practice. The purpose of this Phase I/II Fast Track STTR proposal is to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of an online training program in special needs dentistry for dentists in general practice. Continuing education units will be offered. The program, named Developmental Disabilities Dentistry Online, will be asynchronous (available anytime, anywhere) and, importantly, will exploit advances in media-supported instructional technology, to include virtual clinical simulations, interactive case studies, various Flash-based video and graphic learning objects, 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. Praxis, Inc., the host organization, will collaborate with faculty and staff at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at University of Massachusetts Medical School (Shriver/UMASS Medical) and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine to develop and test the program through a host of systematic formative and summative evaluation methods.
The proposed project and the resulting product will directly benefit dentists who provide services and support to children and adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The project has three major objectives: (1) to Design, develop, implement, and evaluate 6 new on-line training courses in oral health care for a special needs population, (2) to develop a commercially viable software prototype, and (3) to evaluate the resulting program to determine the usability of the software and the effectiveness of the curriculum.