Dental Treatment for Patients with Special Needs

Dental Treatment for Patients with Special Needs

June 10, 2019 - Arminco Inc.

A new dental center in NY treats patients with special needs.

Patients with special needs often have trouble finding appropriate dentists. Most dentists cannot (or will not) treat patients with disabilities because they cannot physically accommodate a larger wheelchair, or they don't really feel comfortable treating them.

Pediatric dentists were historically taught how to deal with patients with special needs, but not general dentists. This means a child with autism could get regular checkups, but not as an adult.

In 2006, a new standard for dental programs was set that required dentistry students to be able to competently assess the treatment needs of patients with special needs, but as of 2012, less than three-quarters of dental schools have predoctoral students actively involved in their treatment.

Now, N.Y.U College of Dentistry has opened the Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities that helps patients with developmental delays or intellectual disabilities to get treated. It has two operation rooms for certain patients to be sedated in order for the dentists to operate comfortably.

N.Y.U’s center aims to send all of its graduates into the world with skills and confidence to care for special patients.

Dr. Ronald Kosinski explained that most people, including physicians and dentists, are afraid of patients with special needs, and that they need to embrace them rather than throw their hands up.

N.Y.U educates roughly 10 percent of the nation’s dentists, so their new program could have an important impact on society. Dr. Bilello, dental director at Metro Community Health Centers in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx said that most dentists might not realize that they are capable of treating special patients until they are given an opportunity to try.

According to Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities, roughly 915,000 people with special needs are living in NYC alone, probably many with untreated teeth. Dr Alan N. Queen, the attending-in-charge of the special-needs dental clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Medical Center, explained that patients with special needs require more effort to be treated, and unfortunately there is no reimbursement for the extra effort made. For example, in order to treat a patient with tremors, he needs one assistant to “hold their head still, another to retract their tongue, another assistant suctioning, and then me doing all the dental work.”

Last October, the American Dental Association updated its code to specify that patients with special needs should not be denied treatment, and if a dentist cannot treat him or her, they must refer them to another professional. Many disabled New Yorkers refrain from seeing a dentist, because most of the time they cannot go into their offices with a wheelchair, and even if they could, an assistant would need to help move them onto a dental chair which causes discomfort for the patient.

Dental Treatment for Patients with Special Needs

In N.Y.U’s new center, there is a special recliner that a wheelchair can be attached to. The recliner helps tilt the patient back to have the doctor examine their teeth. John Walters, a designer at Design Specific said that only 24 such recliners were designed by them.

One patient, Bella, who suffers from fucosidosis, was treated in this center and the treatment was so successful that she showed her appreciation in her own special way— by hugging her dentist!



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