Providing the Best Care for Patients with Disabilities

Posted by Kate Ranta on Nov 20, 2015 11:36:02 AM


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.

Providing care for disabilities 2


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 and accessibility 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 mental, 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, separation anxiety, and other mental disorders 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 help familiarize themselves. Allowing them to observe while a caregiver and/or family member has an appointment is effective in showing the patient what to expect, and allows 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 essential objective for your office. 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. The University of Florida's Paul Burtner College of dentistry offers an online continuing education course. Patients with disabilities can often be overlooked when it comes to oral health care. However, it is our responsibility as dental healthcare 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. 

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