The University of Utah School of Dentistry has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to create a program that provides dental care to patients with drug abuse issues.
"This population is almost always ignored," stated Glen Hanson, DDS, PhD, interim dean of the dental school, in a press release. "Whether it's tooth decay and loss caused by methamphetamine abuse, or infections and diseases in the mouth related to other drug problems, people with substance abuse issues have notoriously poor oral health."
Drug abusers often have bad nutrition as well, because their poor teeth make eating difficult and painful. They also have oral diseases and chronic infections that contribute to other complex health problems, such as cardiovascular illnesses and strokes caused by oral bacteria get into the body, according to the dental school.
In addition to creating a program to provide dental care, the three-year grant also will be used to train future dentists to provide oral care to this population and inform therapists of the patients' oral care needs. Dental students will provide care for these patients during their junior and senior years, providing the students additional training. The grant will allow the school to work with about 200 substance abuse patients, the school estimated.