Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Are Pediatric Dentists Trained in Special Needs?

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published August 4, 2021

It can be hard for families with special needs children to find dental care options for their child. Families who typically see a family dental center for their dental care may not know that while general dentists are not versed in special needs care, pediatric dentists are actually trained to handle the oral health of children with special needs.

The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center sites the definition of special needs care as, “those who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally.” 

As a pediatric dental clinic with training, experience, and expertise in special needs dental care, the Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa is here to answer any questions regarding the training of pediatric dentists in special needs, what special needs care may look like, and our personal approach to the care of your child.

Pediatric Dental Training for Special Needs Patients

Unlike traditional/family dentists, pediatric dentists undergo two additional years of specialty training following dental school. This training includes learning how to best care for children with a variety of needs. Pediatric dentists may receive training for any of the following special needs circumstances:

  • Cleft palate
  • Jaw malformation
  • Wheelchair-dependant patients
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Hearing impairments
  • Non-specific intellectual or developmental delays

Another notable aspect of special needs care is the importance of soft skills in addition to technical know-how. Pediatric dentists should possess characteristics such as patience, a kind bedside manner, and personable nature; being able to treat little smiles with a friendly smile in return is important! 

What is Special Needs Dental Care Like?

Just as with every other patient, special needs patients should receive dental care that is catered to them as an individual. At the Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa, we strive to provide services and extra support needed to make your child feel at ease and comfortable. 

Physical Disability Accommodations

When it comes to accommodating children with physical special needs, a number of measures can be taken to make their dental exam a satisfactory experience. Whether it be assisting the patient from a wheelchair to the dental chair and/or stabilizing the patient with extra support with cushions or staff, our team is happy to help!

Special Emotional Support Accommodations

A lot of kids get nervous or scared for their dental appointments, but for kids with special needs the experience can be more challenging. Finding a pediatric dental team who tends to your child’s emotions as well as their teeth is important in this regard. Some strategies for emotional support may include:

  • Child sitting on parent’s lap
  • Playing a favorite show or music for the child
  • Allowing the child to bring a favorite toy
  • Taking breaks during the cleaning procedure
  • Talking with the child lightheartedly throughout the visit

Accommodations for Patients with Cognitive Disabilities or Delays

Sometimes patients with cognitive disabilities or developmental delays may need additional support both physically and emotionally. Some behavioral techniques that a dental team may use to help maintain a calm and at ease demeanor are:

  • Showing the child each tool and explaining the procedure step-by-step
  • Rewarding the child with a prize at the end of the visit
  • Possibly breaking up a routine exam into several smaller and shorter dental visits

Our Approach to Special Needs Pediatric Dental Care

At the Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa in both Des Moines and Ankeny, our staff is committed to serving all types of smiles. We would be enthusiastic and honored to meet you and your child, and invite you to take a tour of our newly remodeled dental offices! Call us today to set up a first visit at our Ankeny (515.964.3833) or Des Moines (515.223.1298) location. 

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