How do we Help Patients with Special Needs Feel Comfortable at the Dentist

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According to the US Census Bureau 56.7 million Americans had a diagnosed disability, which comprises 19% of the population. ( Special needs are those who might have physical, medical, developmental, or cognitive conditions.  They often require special consideration at their dental appointments.  This can include individuals with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, down syndrome, and many other conditions or even injuries. What’s the biggest reason special needs individuals don’t have access to dental care? The ability to pay for care is the #1 obstacle to obtaining health care services.

What can we offer to make special needs patients’ dental procedures less stressful?

  • Shorter appointments if possible.
  • More staff to help patients during examinations and treatments.
  • Sedation for longer appointments/treatments.
  • Flexible appointment scheduling.
  • Caregiver involvement from the beginning to the completion.

What should we look out for when looking for a dentist?

  • How does the dentist interact with the patient, family and/or caregiver.
  • Does the dentist and staff have experience with special needs patients.
  • If there’s a financial burden does the office offer payment plans, financing, or charitable agencies that provide financial assistance.
  • Pre-treatment plan that includes a thorough review of the patient’s medical history, appropriate intervals for bathroom breaks, patient assessment including patient’s range of motion, comprehension level and communication type.

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