People with special needs may have sensory challenges or physical disabilities that make certain activities harder. Going to the dentist is unpleasant for most people, but it can be a particular challenge for those with special needs. Fortunately, there are dentists who specialize in treating people with this concern. Here are four things special needs dentists can do for their patients:
1. Offer a bite block.
Dentists need unimpeded access to their patients' teeth, but people with special needs may have trouble holding their mouths open for extended periods of time. This can be due to inattention or muscle deficiencies. Special needs dentists can offer bite blocks to help patients keep their mouths open. These blocks are made from firm rubber or silicone. The patient can rest their teeth on the bite block, which will hold their teeth open so the dentist can work.
2. Provide sedative options.
People with special needs may become agitated at the dentist's office. If you or a loved one with special needs has a hard time controlling their anxiety, sedatives can be prescribed upon request. Dentists can provide anxiety-relieving medication that will soothe dental fears and general tension. Benzodiazepines and other oral sedatives are one available option. If these drugs would interact with a medication you're currently on, nitrous oxide is another option with fewer interactions. Sedatives can make each dentist visit more pleasant.
3. Act with patience and compassion.
Special needs dentists understand the struggle that people with mental handicaps face. They have the experience and training required to treat special needs patients with patience and compassion. You can rest assured that you or your loved one will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity at all times. Breaks can be provided during the dental appointment if necessary, which can prevent overwhelming emotions from taking over.
4. Allow a third party to sit in on the appointment.
Some people with special needs find it comforting to have a familiar person nearby. Special needs dentists can provide a place for a friend or family member to sit in the exam room, out of the way of the dental professionals. Having a familiar person in the room with you can help you get your needs met; they can advocate for you if you have a hard time expressing yourself during your appointment. Don't be afraid to ask for this accommodation if it will make your dentist appointment easier.