Children and adults with special health care needs (SHCN) need oral treatment like everyone else, but they benefit the most from seeing a dentist who specifically caters to these patients. Special needs dentistry is a branch of dentistry for which doctors have undergone additional training, and so has their own assistants and office staff. When looking for a dentist, parents of SHCN patients should find a practitioner who understands the wide range of issues these patients face, and can accommodate those needs.
Dental Care for Children with SHCN
Children with SHCN require routine dental care, but often need additional attention as well. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) defines pediatric special needs dentistry as the practices that treat children with a physical, emotional, developmental, cognitive, sensory or mental impairment, as well as those affected by an orofacial disorder or condition. Treatment for kids with SHCN includes examinations, fillings and cleanings along with regular care, but these dentists embrace a unique understanding of the effects of a child’s condition to provide effective treatment. Children affected by an orofacial disorder require this medically specialized dental care.
A Special Needs Dentist Appointment
An appointment with a special needs dentist is generally different from a visit with a regular dentist. The special needs dentist is aware of and tailors his or her approach to the patient’s additional needs. According to Evelyn Chung, DDS, Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California Dental School Section of Hospital Dentistry, patients with SHCN usually require a slower approach than usual, and their appointments should be set when the clinic isn’t as busy. O. Lee Wilson, DMD and Chair of Dentistry at The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, finds the best method for treating sensitive patients with SHCN is to provide them with general anesthesia in an operating room.