UW School of Dentistry

DECOD Program

Dental Education in the Care of Persons with Disabilities

People with disabilities frequently have serious dental problems and have difficulty in accessing dental services

Dental Education in Care of Persons with Disabilities (DECOD) is a special program of the School of Dentistry that treats persons with severe disabilities and prepares dental professionals to meet their special oral health needs.

The DECOD Program provides more than 4,500 dental visits per year to persons with disabilities. It is a major resource for Washington citizens who are most severely disabled and financially disadvantaged. This segment of the population cannot obtain dental services in other community settings.

The patients served by DECOD span all age groups. Approximately 70 percent have severe developmental disabilities (mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism), the remaining 30 percent have extensive acquired disabilities (e.g. spinal cord and traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, psychiatric disorders). The majority of patients are on Medical Assistance.

DECOD includes several special clinics:

  • rehabilitation living programs
  • geriatric, for elderly with disabilities and independent living program
  • a mobile dental service, for residents of long-term care facilities and the homebound

For persons with disabilities and medically compromised individuals regular dental care is vital to health and function. Dental neglect can have serious consequences, including increased costs and risks associated with hospitalization, and needless pain and suffering.