Ensuring the comfort of patients with disabilities when they come in for treatment is a goal for dentists. Here are ways to make a visit to the dentist as easy as possible for those with disabilities.
Needless to say, if disabled patients cannot physically access the office, or feel as though accessibility is an issue, the process stops before it even gets started. Physical obstacles are the first things that they encounter in many avenues they try to take. A thorough evaluation of the surroundings in your office and making some inexpensive changes—such as installing handrails, creating space for wheelchairs, putting in non-skid flooring and adding a portable ramp outside—coupled with providing a compassionate and inviting atmosphere, will not only allow for the patients to gain access, it will also create a welcoming ambiance.
It's Not Just Physical
Patients with developmental or intellectual disabilities are fully mobile, but they bring their own set of challenges to the dentist's office. Depending on the severity of the disability, developmentally disabled patients can be anything from picky to unpredictable. Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down's Syndrome, panic disorders, and even separation anxiety can create, in patients and staff, difficulties well beyond those of everyday activity. For these patients, it's a good idea to arrange a preliminary visit before the actual checkup or exam to familiarize and desensitize them. Allowing them to observe while a caregiver and/or family member has an appointment is effective in showing the patient what to expect, and to allow for you and your staff to take note of the mood and behavior of the patient.
What Needs to be Done?
Accommodating those with disabilities and making them feel welcome is an important objective for your office to meet. If your knowledge of different afflictions is sparse, it is a good idea to research what to expect from those who represent these disabilities and prepare accordingly. According to dentalcare.com, patients with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to oral health care. However, it is our responsibility as dental health care professionals to meet the needs of this very special group of patients. A successful visit will be a rewarding experience for both you and your patient.