It’s National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a time to recognize the value and needs of these special members of our communities.
There are unique challenges in helping a disabled person get the medical and dental care they need. Dental professionals have become more flexible and understanding of these patients’ needs. For caregivers, working with your dental office is key. To make a dental visit go more smoothly:
- Visit or call your dentist’s office before the appointment to explain the patient’s limitations. Describe any developmental issues or problems with mobility in detail so the dentist can prepare the office and exam room.
- Schedule an appointment early in the day to avoid wait times or other distractions that could upset the patient.
- Sit in the exam room to provide support and familiarity.
- Consider using anesthesia for certain dental procedures.
Patience on the part of the caregiver and staff is important. It helps if a dentist or hygienist explains what’s going to happen at each step of the treatment process to reassure the developmentally disabled patient. Some patients may need to have explanations repeated.
If you know of a developmentally disabled adult who has had trouble accessing dental services, or is unable to afford them, contact the Dental Lifeline Network. The network was created to provide dental services to “needy, disabled, elderly or medically compromised individuals.”
The network has more than 15,000 volunteer dentists, who have provided care to more than 120,000 people in all 50 states. Learn more about what programs are available in your state.