There are two main characteristics that you need to look for when picking a dentist for your loved one. The first is regarding their training and expertise in special needs and the second is whether the facilities of the office are geared towards treating individuals with special needs.
General Dentist vs. Pediatric Dentist
General dentists are trained in all aspects of dentistry and work with patients of all ages. Most do a 1 year residency in a hospital setting or school setting that provides them with some experience in the special needs community.
Pediatric dentists are trained specifically in children and young adults and with individuals with special needs. Approximately two to three years of training after dental school where they have extensive training in behavior management, sedation, prevention and so much more. Most pediatric dentists will continue to see individuals with special needs throughout their entire lives.
Why use a pediatric dentist?
- They have the facilities to treat patients with disabilities
- They have had 2-3 years experience with children and special needs cases
- Many individuals with disabilities are non-verbal and tend to be very visual. Pediatric dentists are familiar with how to communicate with them.
- They are familiar with techniques on how to grasp the attention of the individual
- Can provide parents with tips on how to maintain proper oral care
- Use behavioral management
- They have the tools and instruments that help cater to individuals with special needs
It is important to find a dentist that has an office that can accommodate your loved one.
You should look for:
- Handicap accessible- either ramps or elevator
- Wheelchair accessible rooms that are large enough to fit a wheelchair
- Staff that is trained with special needs- i.e. assistants and hygienists
- If the dentist has the ability for sedation either in office or privileges at a local hospital
- If the practice has an age limit
- Quiet rooms- rooms that are able to have closed doors for individuals who need low sensory settings