LIBERTYVILLE, ILLINOIS- Among children with special healthcare needs, dental care is often an unmet one, resulting in a population that is almost twice as likely to have untreated dental decay, according to Dr. David Maddox, a pediatric dentistry expert at Affiliated Dental Specialists.
The definition of special health care needs is any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive or emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, health care intervention or use of specialized services or programs, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
“Affiliated Dental Specialists is a pediatric dental practice prepared to accommodate these unique needs,” says Dr. Maddox, who works with four other dentists, including an orthodontist. The dental group also offers braces for adults and braces for children.
Pediatric dentists have formal training in treating patients with special health care needs and are oftena child’s first dental home. Some patients come to the office withanxieties or aversions to dental care, but we give them the time they need to adjust to the different smells, sights, sounds and sensations.
“Getting dental care for someone with special health care needs may be challenging at times, but it is very important,” says Dr. Cameron Wagner, who works at the Libertyville orthodontics and pediatric dentistry practice. “Untreated dental disease can lead to lifelong oral health problems and complicate systemic health issues.”
He says early intervention, including a dental visit by age one, can help prevent dental disease from becoming one more special health care need for a family to address. The dentists know that it is often necessary to incorporate caregivers, educators and other medical professionals into the process to achieve successful oral health.
“Communication is really important,” says Dr. James Orbon. “For example, we need to know their medical conditions, medications, allergies and behaviors that will require accommodation before dental treatment.”
To allay anxieties and build trust with the patient, the dentists encourage the use of consistency and routine, such as scheduling appointments at the same time each visit, using the same chair and assigning the same staff.
“Knowing what is about to happen and how it may feel is also extremely helpful,” says Dr. Maddox.
This means explaining the procedure and showing them on a model what is about to happen before actually doing it. According to Dr. Wagner, letting the patient handle a similar instrument and slowly introducing tools that make sound or may cause vibrating sensations in the oral cavity also helps some patients.
“Providing good dental and oral care for children with special health care needs can be done with a little planning and consideration,” says Dr. Orbon. “We want every patient we treat to have the reward of a healthy and bright smile that lasts for a lifetime.”
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