Treating Special Needs Patients

At Agnini Family Dental, our dentists focus on meeting the needs and working with the limitations of these patients with skill, empathy, and a willingness to adjust to their changing needs

If you or someone you are caring for is a patient with special needs, choose a dentist capable of taking a different approach to treatment based on what those needs and circumstances are. The dentist you choose should have or be willing to develop a complete understanding of the disability, illness or special need that warrants different consideration during dental treatment. A patient with special needs can be defined as someone with medical, physical, psychological or social circumstances that require a change in their normal routines. Those considered dental patients with special needs represent individuals with a broad range of conditions that do not necessarily relate to oral health.

For example, dental patients with special needs include the following:

  • Aging and elderly people: These individuals may need more frequent dental visits to monitor tooth wear, pain and the effects of medications that they cannot detect themselves due to decreased pain sensations. These individuals are often sensitive to glare and have a hard time hearing dental information or instructions if background music is loud. Therefore, blinds or shades may need to be drawn and the music lowered during their appointments to enhance their comfort.
  • Individuals with mobility issues: Patients with mobility issues may need assistance in and out of the dental chair, as well as to and from the dental office.
  • Mentally disabled individuals: Those who are mentally challenged or intellectually disabled may need to be accompanied to dental appointments by a caregiver, since they may not be able to comprehend dental hygiene requirements or homecare instructions.
  • Immunocompromised people and those with complex medical problems: People with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bleeding disorders or other systemic conditions need to have their conditions – as well as their medications – taken into account before receiving dental treatments. Dentists will likely need to collaborate with their physicians.
  • People with a mental illness: An individual with a mental illness may have difficulty following proper dental hygiene regimens, obtaining dental care and countering the effects of medications that affect oral health (such as antidepressants that cause dry mouth). These individuals may need shorter appointments that are scheduled when they are in a balanced state, as well as be accompanied by a caregiver or case manager.
  • Children with behavioral or emotional conditions: Children with autism, for example, are averse to changes of any kind. These patients with special needs would likely need to be seen by the same hygienist – wearing the same outfit, working in the same dental office – whenever they visit the dentist to receive care. Or, children who need medication for ADHD may need to be given their medications at such a time that they are able to sit through a dental appointment.

When treating patients with special needs and complex medical histories, each patient must be treated as an individual who is not defined by a medical condition or disability. At Agnini Family Dental, our dentists focus on meeting the needs and working with the limitations of these patients with skill, empathy, and a willingness to adjust to their changing needs. Our team will spend time with the patient and/or caregiver to understand the extent of the patient’s disabilities, and how they impact the patient’s life and home hygiene.

Here are some of the many ways our team goes above and beyond for our special needs patients:

  • Some patients and caregivers may benefit from a tour of the clinic and introduction to the team before the first appointment.
  • Knowledge of the medical, physical, mental or behavioral condition in order to better manage the appointment and oral health needs. Treating patients with multiple health conditions often involves the need to collaborate with the patient’s medical team.
  • Development of an efficient and systematic approach to the examination and treatment so that appointments are short, when necessary.
  • More assistants during examinations and treatment procedures to better control and monitor the patient and the appointment.
  • Sedation dentistry to promote patient comfort if longer appointments are required. The decision to use any type of sedation will be based on the patient’s cooperation, health history, and the extent of treatment.
  • Flexible appointment scheduling.
  • Caregiver or case manager involvement in treatment planning, providing instructions and information, and while performing dental procedures.
  • X-rays can be taken on patients in their wheelchairs.
  • Tell-show-do and distraction techniques.
  • Extra pillows, cushions, and support pads can be used to keep the patient comfortable.
  • Treatment can be stopped periodically to allow the patient to reposition if he or she starts to lose muscle control.


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