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Dental care is something that everyone needs in order to stay healthy. However, some people have physical or mental health challenges that make going to the dentist difficult. This is where special needs dentistry comes in. Underlying health conditions shouldn’t be a barrier to getting the dental care you need. Special needs dentists offer accommodations for patients that need them to make oral health care more accessible. If a member of your family has special needs, you may not be familiar with the services available to them. What is special needs dentistry and how does it work?

What is Special Needs Dentistry?

Special needs dentistry is the process of providing professional dental care for patients who need extra support. Special needs dentists and their teams take extra time to get to know each patient and find the right accommodations for them. Underlying health challenges shouldn’t preclude you from getting the dental care you need, which is why special needs dentistry services are so important.

Who Can Benefit From Special Needs Dentistry?

Anyone who requires additional support for a successful dentist appointment can benefit from special needs dentistry. Here are some of the patient groups that are most likely to require special needs dentistry.

Patients With Cognitive or Mental Health Challenges

Many mental health conditions can make going to the dentist very difficult. This could be anything from a learning disability to a severe phobia of the dentist.  For patients struggling with mental health issues, going to the dentist can be overwhelming or even scary. It may also be difficult for patients to understand and comply with the dentist’s instructions.

Children With Behavioral Challenges

Many children struggle with behavioral challenges like autism or ADHD. These conditions make new situations, such as going to the dentist, feel very overwhelming. Children may have trouble sitting still in the dental chair, following instructions, or regulating their emotions during the appointment. Behavioral issues can also make it very difficult for children to take care of their oral health at home. 

Special needs dentists are well-versed in common behavioral issues and know how to work with special needs children safely. They can coordinate with parents to prepare for upcoming appointments and even make adjustments to the office to make it less stimulating.

Elderly Patients

Many older patients struggle with physical health conditions that can make dental appointments uncomfortable. Additionally, oral health can naturally decline with age, which means that patients may need more time and attention from the dentist.

Immunocompromised Patients

Patients with chronic physical health conditions can also require extra support when at the dentist. Many of these patients are immunocompromised, which makes them particularly susceptible to illness. These patients may require strict cleaning and masking procedures in order to come into the dentist’s office.

Additionally, many patients with chronic health conditions take several medications as part of their daily routine. A special needs dentist will take special care to ensure that dental treatments don’t interact with medications.

Patients with Mobility Issues

Patients with severe injuries or other mobility issues can also benefit from seeing a special needs dentist. These patients may struggle to keep their mouth open for an extended period of time or sit comfortably in a dentist’s chair. Special needs dentists can offer a variety of physical accommodations to make dental care more comfortable.

Why is Special Needs Dentistry Important?

Special needs dentistry offers a variety of benefits for patients, their families, and dentists themselves. Most importantly, it makes oral health care accessible to everyone. Many special needs patients develop chronic oral health conditions due to a lack of care. Special needs dentistry helps prevent this from happening. 

Special needs dentistry also makes treatment safer and easier for the dentist. When dentists understand exactly what their patients need to feel comfortable, they can address any problems that come up with ease. Additionally, special needs dentistry helps patients get better oral healthcare at home. The dentist can work with family members or caregivers to develop strategies for brushing and flossing at home.

What Can I Expect from a Special Needs Dentist?

When making an appointment with a special needs dentist, it’s important to let the team know ahead of time exactly what type of support and accommodations you will need. This information will help the entire team prepare accordingly for your appointment. A family member or caregiver will be allowed into the appointment to help with communication and emotional support as needed. 

All dentist’s offices are wheelchair-friendly thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, a special needs dentist may offer even more support for patients with mobility issues. They’ll also use specialized equipment to help keep the patient more comfortable during treatment.

What is Special Needs Dentistry Chair

Special needs patients also may benefit from sedation options during the treatment itself. Sedation helps patients stay calm and makes it easier for the dentist to work. Sedation plans can be customized to suit each patient’s needs. For example, some patients prefer a light sedation to help them relax, while others need full anesthesia for the procedure. Sedation options will be discussed ahead of time to find a solution that’s best for the patient.

A special needs dentist will also help you put together a personalized oral care plan to follow at home. This plan will take the patient’s needs into account to make treatment more comfortable. This plan will also factor in any medications the patient is currently taking to prevent interactions. 

No two patients are the same, so communication is key when working with a special needs dentist. The more information you can provide ahead of time, the more your dentist can do to make your appointment comfortable.

Schedule Your Special Needs Dentistry Appointment With Mill Dam Dental Care

At Mill Dam Dental Care, we’re passionate about working with special needs patients. Dr. Leidy specializes in sedation dentistry and is one of the leading providers of sedation treatment in Virginia Beach. Give us a call today to learn more or schedule your appointment.