Choosing a Dentist -- Choose a dentist who accommodates special needs. A pediatric dentist may also be a good choice because of the special training they receive working with children. Many accredited dental schools now have classes devoted to working with special needs patients, and some provide care for the disabled in their clinics.
Preparing for the Dental Visit -- Preparation can help your special needs patient get ready for the dentist. Don't wait until the last minute to tell them about the visit or surprise them at the office. When discussing the dentist, visual aids from books or the internet can give the patient an idea of what to expect at the dental office.
At the Dental Office -- If you're familiar with the special needs patient's schedule, make an appointment during a time that's easy for them. Since the patient may be waiting for long periods of time, bring distractions to entertain them. It is also beneficial to make appointments with a dentist or dental hygienist the patient likes, so they see familiar faces on a consistent basis. And during the appointment, don't forget to dish out plenty of praise!
Accommodating Physical Handicaps -- When choosing a dentist, find out if they have wheelchair access and make a plan for transferring the patient to the dental chair. Let the office know if the patient needs to be restrained or supported during dental treatment. In some cases, a mouth prop can help keep the patient's mouth open when they can't do it on their own. When providing a medical history, list any allergies to dental materials, such as metal or latex.
Considering Sedation -- Because your dentist wants to provide the best care possible for your loved one, an alternative form of anesthesia may be needed. In extreme cases, sedation dentistry is used to relax a patient during treatment.
Special needs patients also need an oral hygiene routine to maintain their smile. There are several ways to make it easier for patients and their caregivers to maintain their dental health:
Homemade Devices -- For patients who have a hard time holding a toothbrush, wrap tape or an elastic bandage around the handle. You can even attach a tennis ball, sponge or rubber grip to the handle.
Electric Toothbrushes -- Mechanical toothbrushes are an excellent option for those who have trouble brushing on their own.
Dental Floss -- Waxed floss is easier to use, and dental floss holders are available for those who have a hard time working with floss.
Toothpastes and Mouth Rinses -- Fluoride toothpaste helps prevent cavities, and some mouth rinses help control periodontal disease.
Diet -- A diet low in sugar can reduce the possibility of tooth decay. You're taking all the right steps to keep your family's health in check, and staying on top of their dental health keeps everyone feeling great. With appropriate professional dental care and at-home oral hygiene, your special needs patient will be smiling for years to come!