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The Importance of Accessible Dental Care for People with Disabilities

The Importance of Accessible Dental Care for People with Disabilities
November 1, 2022

Special care dentistry or special needs dentistry refers to dental specialties that treat oral health issues of geriatric patients, people with mental disabilities, or any form of physical, psychiatric, and medical issues. Special needs patients require additional care; thus, you may find dental offices offering special care programs with additional staff, special equipment, and a work environment that fully accommodates the special needs of disabled individuals. This helps to make the administration of oral care services like tooth cleanings and other dental service procedures easy.

Special needs dentistry is for persons who fall under any spectrum of disabilities, including children and adults with ADHD, autism, spina bifida, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. It also includes persons who are deaf, blind or require wheelchair accommodation.

To become a special needs dentist, one has to enroll for a dental degree, after which, upon attaining, one must sign up for an additional post-graduate course to get board certification in special care dentistry.

Over the years, oral health specialists have come up with strategic ways of incorporating special dental care in their practice to cover people with disabilities and ensure that they, too, get access to good dental care.

Most people who need special dental care live in the hospital, at home, in secured units, nursing or residential homes, or at times may be vulnerably housed.

For the majority, the additional care is due to a disability or an impairment that affects their oral health directly or an aspect of a past medical history that negatively affects their dental health. For instance, a patient with a developmental disability like autism is more susceptible to oral health issues like bruxism, dental caries, delayed dental eruption, and tongue thrusting, all of which can have a toll on your dental health if not addressed timely and appropriately.

If you are looking for dental care for special needs patients, visit Concord Dental & Orthodontics, a Concord dental clinic with a qualified dentist for special needs patients.

What Are Some of the Challenges That People with Disabilities Face When Trying to Get Dental Care?

People with disabilities often have caregivers who look after them and their needs. The caregivers play a role that influences the dental healthcare of the one being cared for as they are responsible for booking their dental appointments at dental offices as well as facilitating their transport means. Lack of time on the part of caregivers is a factor that contributes to missing important dental appointments and checkups by the special needs patient. Sometimes the caregiver is unwilling to participate in the scheduled visits because they are uninformed and hence do not see the importance of availing the patient for the appointment, or if they are the sole providers, they have to put their plans on hold or cater for the treatment costs.

Other challenges individuals with disabilities face include:

  • Transportation difficulties – Disabled persons who live far from the special needs dental clinic may experience challenges getting there on time for scheduled appointments, especially where they have no one to assist and care for them.
  • Poor design of dental offices – Some dental offices are poorly designed in a way that they lack wheelchair-accessible entrances. At the same time, some have physical impediments that make access to the facility by the disabled difficult.
  • Unfriendly dental staff – People with special needs require special care, which includes constant reassurance, practicing patience with them, and being gentle and kind when administering care to them to build trust. If the dental staff is incompetent or unfriendly, it becomes difficult to deliver quality dental care.
  • Fear of the dentist– Poor communication skills with the practitioner can lead to communication issues between the special needs individual and the dental practitioner. If the first experience at the dentist does not go well, the patient may develop dental phobia and anxiety, which makes the person terrified of dentists.

Why is Dental Care So Important for People with Disabilities?

Poor dental health is generally going to affect your general health negatively: thus, excellent dental care is beneficial to people with disabilities as it helps them maintain good oral health, thus improving the overall general body health, which enhances their quality of life.

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