How To Find The Right Dentist For Special Needs Kids 🦷


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Good oral health is a prerequisite for leading a happy and healthy life. As a parent or a guardian, you are responsible for your child’s oral health. So, just like you take them to a pediatric doctor for monitoring their overall health, it is also important to regularly visit the dentist’s office to ensure optimal dental health. 

This is especially true if your child has special needs as special conditions can increase the chances of dental issues in children. Moreover, since most children with special needs have varying individual requirements and sensitivities, dental treatment is often more problematic for them as compared to other children. One way to avoid extensive dental treatments is to keep preventable dental problems from developing in the first place. 

For all these reasons, it is essential to practice good oral habits right from the start and make dentist appointments for your kid from an early age. Unfortunately, while most parents realize the significance of maintaining good oral health in children, they all share a common concern ― how do I know if the dentist is right for my special needs kid? 

If you are also pondering over the same question, scroll down to take a look at some basic factors to consider for finding the ideal dentist for special needs kids.  

Check the Qualification and Certifications

The first thing you need to do is check out the qualification and certification of the dentist you are considering. Make sure that the dentist has completed a course in Pediatric Dentistry from a reputable institution. Try to look for a dentist who received training primarily focused on children with special needs. This will ensure the highest level of care for your child as the dentist will have any special equipment that may be required for dental treatment. They will also be able to guide you in a better way on how you can promote dental health at home.  

Look for the License to Practice 

Once you are positive that the dentist you are considering is trained and qualified to provide dental treatment to your child, make sure you take the time to ensure they also possess an active license to practice in your state. This license is issued to dentists by the state board. Generally, they are displayed in the dentist’s office. However, if you don’t see them in the clinic, feel free to inquire about it at the reception. Proceed with the appointment only if you get a satisfying response.    

Experience in Dealing with Special Needs Children 

It is best to opt for a dentist with adequate experience in dealing with children with special needs. They’ll be knowledgeable about basic and advanced procedures for treating children with special needs children, along with the various issues that special needs children may experience, like cognitive development issues, sensory issues, and communication deficits. They’ll be familiar with various strategies to help your child feel at ease at the clinic and during the treatment. 

Accommodation for Sedation 

According to the Behavior Guidance for the Pediatric Dental Patient,

Sedation can be used safely and effectively with patients who are unable to cooperate due to a lack of psychological or emotional maturity and/or mental, physical, or medical disability.”

This makes it important to look for a dentist who offers sedation dentistry for children. So, make sure you inquire about it before making the first appointment.  

Location and Environment of the Dentist’s Office

Traveling for extended periods can easily agitate children. You don’t want your child to be already in a bad mood when they arrive at the dentist’s. Therefore, it is advisable to look for a dentist who practices in or near your neighborhood. You can also drive around the dentist’s office, point to it, or even make a short stop there to familiarize your child with the building. This works well for special needs children who respond well to visual cues. 

The overall atmosphere of the doctor’s office also plays an important part in calming the child and therefore ensuring a successful dental appointment. Your child should feel welcomed at the office. The atmosphere must be soothing and free of any distractions that may cause additional stress to the child. 

Willing to Go the Extra Mile 

A good dentist is always willing to go the extra mile to accommodate the special needs of their patients.  For instance, a practicing dentist at the Pediatric Dental Group in Greater Vancouver shared his experience,

“If a child is having a hard time, I might say ‘hi’ and touch his hand. If that’s all I can do the first time, that’s good enough! They come back in a month. This time I pause to let them touch my glove. Sometimes they touch my face or mask. It takes many baby steps.” 

Make sure the dentist you choose for your special needs child is willing to handle the special needs of your kid. They must be compassionate about what they do in order to provide the best treatment. 

Look for Recommendations 

Finally, don’t forget to ask around. Your family, friends, and acquaintances may know of good dentists who might be able to provide excellent dental care and treatment for children with special needs. Moreover, you will feel more confident about your choice if the dentist is recommended by someone you trust. 

You can also find tons of information and dental health guidance for parents of children with special needs. In case you are unable to get recommendations in your circle, you can always look for good and professional dentists online. Here are a few options:   

  • WSDA Special Needs Directory: The Washington State Dental Association and the Departments of Oral Medicine and Pediatric Dentistry have collaborated to build a directory of dentists who treat patients with special needs. So, take the time to check out the WSDA Special Needs Directory.  
  • Special Care Dentist Referral:  The Special Care Dentistry Association can also facilitate you in finding the right dentist for special needs kids. Therefore, it is a good idea to check out Special Care Dentist Referral to find options in your area. 

Keep in mind that these directories are not exhaustive by any means. So, there may be many more options out there. However, it is still a good option when it comes to finding a good dentist for special needs children. Remember, the dental health of your child affects their overall wellbeing, which is why it is essential to book a dentist’s appointment before any dental issues arise. 

References 

Team SafeSleep

Hi! We're a team of scientists, doctors, teachers, and coaches experienced in helping people with special needs. We hope you like our research and share it with others who might find it helpful too :)

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