Every Patient Is Special

Author: Kimberly N. Powell, DDS, MS, FAGD

An article in General Dentistry titled Understanding Special Needs in Dental Practice starts with the statement, Every patient is special, and each deserves the greatest care we can deliver.  The statement is very true, but the emphasis is on a population whose needs can range from anxiety to a significant physical, systemic, and/or developmental challenge. Patients who are identified with special needs may require significant modifications to treatment planning and delivery. It has been documented that individuals with special needs have a significant disadvantage in obtaining hygiene services and have worse hygiene than their non-affected counterparts. For this population, emphasis on home care is very important as treatment successes will depend heavily on the oral healthcare provided outside the office. First we must identify who provides oral home care for the patient. If it is the patient, oral health education must be communicated in a way that the patient comprehends it. If the caregiver or family member provides this care, oral health instructions should be given to them and demonstrated correctly. The dental team must communicate to the caregiver the need to report any changes in the patients general health, oral health, or other related physical or behavioral changes. When it comes to treatment planning, it is important to determine if the patient in the chair has the capacity to understand and follow planned treatment and if the patient is able to participate in dental treatment with or without support such as physical and/or pharmacologic (medications). Scheduling of appointments has to be considered also.  Patients with diabetes may need  appointments early in the day. Some patients with special needs may need longer appointments to address challenges to their care which isnt encountered in their non-affected counterparts.  The article closes with a clear directive, It should be routine to have a team meeting to discuss a prospective visit from a patient with special needs so that everyone is prepared for any challenges that arise. At SLDG, it is routine and we prepare!

 *Information in this blog article was obtained from General Dentistry, July/August 2022, vol 70, number 4, Larry N. Williams, DDS, MPH