Good oral health is an integral factor in ensuring an individual’s optimum overall general health. Therefore the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s initial visit to the dentist take place when the child’s first tooth erupts or the child’s first birthday, whichever comes first. Persons with disabilities may have many medical and behavioral issues starting at a very young age that take priority over their dental needs. Access to dental care for individuals with developmental disabilities can be a major barrier since many dentists in the community are not adequately trained in special care dentistry. Cost can also be a factor as many individuals with disabilities have state Medicaid programs as their primary insurance, but very few dentists in the community participate in this program.
What should families look for in a provider?
In order to meet your child’s dental needs it is important to find a dentist/treatment center catering to individuals with developmental disabilities. When you call a dental practice/treatment center ask if their services include desensitization, oral sedation, intravenous conscious sedation and general anesthesia. Does their staff have years of experience in providing dental treatment for individuals with challenging behaviors on a daily basis? What types of insurance is accepted? Asking these questions will avoid surprises on the initial visit.
What will the first visit be like?
Initial visits do not usually include treatment, especially for those individuals with anxiety and challenging behaviors. It is a get–to–know visit, a review of the patient’s medical history, current medications, an oral exam and x-rays, if possible. The exam can range from a quick visual exam out in the waiting area to a complete exam in the dental chair. The dentist can then discuss the results of the exam with the family/caregiver in order to establish a treatment plan. Based on the individual’s dental needs, they may need future treatment requiring oral sedation or possibly general anesthesia. Whatever the extent of the dental treatment your child with special needs may require it’s important to find a dentist you can trust and with whom your child is comfortable.
Courtesy of: Patricia Seagriff-Curtin, DDS Agency: Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD) Website: www.wihd.org E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 914-493-8138/8081