If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know that certain things become more difficult, or require special planning before happening. Going to the dentist may be one of those things. This article will discuss dental care for the special needs population.
There are countless reasons why a child may need special consideration before going to the dentist. The child may be autistic, have a spinal cord injury, may have developmental disabilities, Down’s syndrome, or be blind or hard of hearing. You, as the parent, know how your child best responds to new and different environments.
If you have a special needs child, phone the dental office before the appointment, and ask to set up a consultation appointment to speak with the dentist. You may also want to see if the hygienist may also attend. During this appointment, share the needs of your child with the dentist, and see if he or she is able to accommodate your child appropriately. If they cannot, there are many dentists who specialize in providing dental care for the individual with special needs, and the dentist will likely make a referral for you.
If possible, prior to any dental care being performed, have your child ‘visit’ the dental office. Show him or her a dental chair, and let them sit in the chair, and lean back as they would when their teeth are being cleaned or a procedure being performed. Introduce them to the staff, and show him or her some of the instruments. If your child is noise sensitive, ask if the instruments could be turned on so they will know what the noise is prior to the appointment time. This pre-visit will help acclimate the child as much as possible.
On the day of the appointment, if possible, prepare your child and let them know where they are going and what is going to happen. Every child is different and you may or may not be able to do this. If your child is having a particularly ‘bad’ day, call and reschedule the appointment. Rescheduling the appointment is much better than having a bad experience.
Working with your dentist, you, your child and the dental team can all have a positive experience. If you have questions about accommodating your child, talk to your dentist today.
Posted on behalf of Dr. David Kurtzman
Getting good dental care to help maintain oral health is vitally important for children and individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, and other special needs patients. These patients are generally prone to serious tooth development issues, gum disease, periodontitis, and bite problems. Also, their daily oral health care is compromised by poor motor skills, intellectual impairment, and intolerance for dental care by caregivers.
The result is that these special needs patients are usually in desperate need of regular dental care, yet they are usually unable to tolerate receiving dental care in a traditional dental office. They are either unwilling or unable to sit still in a dental chair for more than a few minutes. Most dental offices lack the experience and patience needed to treat special needs patients and the patient typically ends up anxious and upset.
Hospital dentistry is a specialized area of dental practice that is well suited for providing safe, anxiety free and painless dentistry to special needs patients. Specially trained dentists provide quality dental care to patients under general anesthesia. These procedures are carried out in a hospital operating room or surgical suite with the assistance of surgical nurses and a qualified anesthesiologist.
With the patient fully sedated, the dentist can perform any type of procedure from routine cleanings to fillings, cavities, extractions, orthodontics, and deep cleanings. The patient experiences no anxiety or pain during the procedure and afterward has no memory of it. Several procedures can be performed during a single visit which reduces the number of visits to the dentist. Hospital sleep dentistry is an excellent way for special needs patients to get the dental care they so urgently need.
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