How Does Special Needs Dentistry Differ From General Dentistry?

Posted on: 29 October 2020

Dentists do their best to meet the needs of their patients, offering caring, comprehensive dental care to keep patients' teeth healthy. However, some people have different needs than others. People affected by dementia, autism, Downs syndrome, and other conditions have special needs that can be met by a special needs dentist. Here are three ways that special needs dentistry differs from general dentistry.

1. Physical limitations are taken into consideration.

Some people with disabilities have physical limitations that make it difficult or impossible to receive treatment from a general dentist. People in a wheelchair may be unable to transfer themselves onto a dental examining chair. People who suffer from spasms, muscle weakness, or paralysis may be unable to keep their mouths open for the duration of a dental appointment.

Fortunately, special needs dentists take these limitations into account. Special needs dental offices are equipped with special chairs that allow patients to stay in their wheelchair during their dental appointment. Mouth props made from comfortable silicone can help patients keep their mouths open for their whole appointment while still allowing them to rest their jaws.

2. Home care advice is emphasized.

Excellent oral health starts at home. Regular toothbrushing and flossing are necessary to clean away the plaque that can cause cavities. Some people with special needs need caretakers to perform oral care for them. Some people can clean their own teeth when given the right tools and techniques.

A special needs dentist will work with patients and their families, offering advice to improve home dental care. The dentist may recommend tools designed specifically for people with special needs. For example, electric toothbrushes offer better cleaning power and more control for patients who have issues with muscle function or motor control.

3. Various levels of sedation are offered.

Some people are unable to bear a dental appointment. People with sensory difficulties may find the sensations of a dental appointment too overwhelming. Some people are unable to complete a dental appointment while conscious because they're unable to understand what's going on, which can lead to confusion and agitation.

Special needs dentists offer various levels of sedation to patients. Light sedation, such as nitrous oxide, can calm anxious patients and help them feel more comfortable during their dental procedure. Patients with severe dementia and autism may be better served by heavier methods of sedation. Intravenous sedation can calm patients with severe dental phobias. General anesthesia is an option that is available to patients who cannot sit through a dental appointment in any other way.

For more information, contact a special needs dentist in your area.