Good oral hygiene and dental care are important parts of an overall health care program for children and adults with cerebral palsy. These patients have the same susceptibility to oral and dental diseases as the general population, but they often do not get adequate dental care. The result is that their oral health and overall health suffers.
The lack of dental care can be due to a variety of factors including delaying dental care to deal with more pressing health care issues, but in many cases, cerebral palsy patients do not receive the same level of dental care because they can be challenging patients and many dental practices do not have the experience or the inclination to take the time necessary to meet the special needs of these patients.
Cerebral palsy patients may present a number of issues that make traditional dentistry difficult to perform. They often have poor motor control and unable to remain still during a dental procedure. Patients may also have severe gag reflex and difficulties swallowing. In addition, cerebral palsy patients may experience high levels of anxiety about dental care and have trouble tolerating teeth cleaning or minor dental procedures.
Fortunately, there are dental practices that specialize in caring for patients with developmental disabilities. They understand and are equipped to deal with special needs patients. In some cases, patients are able to receive the dental care they need in the dentist’s office using a combination of a caring, trained dental staff and mild sedatives.
In other case, dental care is safely performed in a specially equipped operating room while the patient is under general anesthesia. Sleep dentistry is a safe and humane way for special needs patients to get the dental care they need.
Obtaining dental care for developmentally disabled persons poses a real challenge. Many Americans have mental or physical disabilities that prevent them for sitting in a dentist’s chair for more than a few minutes. Since most dental procedures take at least an hour and can last as long as eight hours, people with these disabilities are prohibited from seeking traditional dental care.
Also, developmentally disabled persons often experience a high level of anxiety related to dental care. In addition, there are often transportation issues and concerns about Medicaid reimbursement.
For those with developmental disabilities, the lack of available dental care is problematic because they face situations which lead to dental pathology more often than the general population. The lack of available dental care for this population only further compromises the generally poor state of their dental health.
Because of the special needs of developmentally disables persons, most dental practices are not set up to provide dental care to the developmentally disabled. Finding a dentist willing to provide dental care might take some diligent effort.
Dentistry for developmentally disabled persons is generally provided in a specially equipped hospital operating room. Assisted by a trained anesthesiologist and surgical nurses, a dentist specially trained in dental care for developmentally disabled persons performs the dental procedures while the patient is under general anesthesia.
Medical colleges provide the specialized training necessary for developmentally disabled dentistry. One way to locate a local provider is to contact one of these programs for a referral. Also, your state Dental Association or the American Dental Association may be able to refer you to a local provider.
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