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What is Different About Dental Care For Special Needs Patients?

When caring for an adult or child with special health care needs, it’s important to find a dental provider specializing in caring for those patients. These professionals have additional training and the understanding to meet the needs of their patients.

What Does A Dentist Who Takes Care of People With Special Needs Do?

The dental professional is trained in an approach to oral health management that fits each patient's individual needs. They may have a variety of medical conditions or limitations that require more than just routine oral care. This includes preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services.

What To Expect For a Dental Appointment for A Person With Special Needs?

When you make an appointment, be sure to discuss your person’s particular needs with the dental professional. Find out what will happen prior to the appointment so you can plan accordingly. The appointment length and time of day should be convenient for your person’s disability. Ensure you or an assistant can be in the room during the appointment to help keep your person calm. Communication, positive reinforcement, and a caring touch will be needed during the appointment. Having answers to the following questions will help.

  • Will treatment occur in the dental office or as an outpatient experience in a hospital or dental clinic.
  • Does the patient require pre-medication? If yes, the dentist should consult with you and the patient’s physician prior to the patient’s visit to the office.
  • Does the patient require special accommodation at the dental office in order to receive treatment? For example, a patient in a wheelchair may need to be transferred to the dental chair. Or, the position of the dental chair may need to be adjusted for the patient’s comfort.
  • What is the purpose of the dental visit? What specific procedures will be performed: an oral examination or professional hygiene treatment, a filling replacement, or tooth extraction?

How to Find A Dentist Who Specializes in Treating People With Special Needs?

  • The Special Care Dentistry Association has a database of registered professionals
  • Contact your local university or dental college about clinics that treat children and adults with Special Health Care Needs
  • Check local or national resources pertaining to the specific special need of your adult or child for dental professional recommendations in your area

Most importantly, a good special needs dentistry practice will contain specialized equipment, such as an operating theater, and a dentist who takes a detailed history that shapes his or her treatment delivery around your person’s unique needs.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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