This year’s Special Needs Week, celebrated during the week of June 18-25, 2011, is a great opportunity to help out relatives, friends and neighbors with special needs. People of all ages have special conditions such as those associated with stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, or arthritis. Some of the most pressing issues they face are involved in getting adequate medical care
Each of these people has the same basic requirements that we all do, but sometimes it is more difficult for them to achieve them due to their special needs. The most significant of these is due to the lack of regular and ongoing dental care.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, almost 20 people out of every 100 Americans have some type of disability; within this population, developmental disabilities are present in 17 out of every 100 adolescents. Adolescents are affected by improper dental care the most. Studies done by groups like the University of Washington School of Dentistry have found that about 78 percent of children with special health care needs reported to need dental treatment and/or an examination in the prior 12 months; a need second only to the need for prescription medicine.
One reason this number is so high may be due a lack of knowledge as to what kind of dentist treats special needs patients as well as the caregiver’s fear of taking their child to the family general dentist at a young age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that all children see a dentist within 6 months after the first tooth comes in, or before their first birthday.
The solution is found with the help of pediatric dentists. Pediatric dentists have two or more years of advanced training in addition to dental school and their specialized education focuses on care for children with special needs. These clinicians have a complete understanding of necessary behavior management. They learn to select an action plan based on the specific health needs of their patients and then discuss the benefits, limits and risks with their caregivers. In addition to treating children Pediatric specialists are also frequently chosen to provide dental care to adults with special needs.
Caregivers can select a pediatric dentist confidently knowing that the doctor will treat their patient with the highest level of care and understanding. These dentists also know the importance of learning about and respecting their special needs patients as they make a health plan that fits them as individuals. Pediatric specialists Dr. Andy Shehata, D.D.S., and Dr. Paddy Smithwick, of Legacy Pediatric Dentistry and Imagix Dental recognize the importance of this in his treatment of patients with special needs, saying: “Every patient is different. Every special needs patient is different as well. It’s just a matter of finding out one’s personality. A lot of times people see their handicap or disability instead of seeing their personality”.
In working with special needs patients, pediatric dentists are rewarded with life-long friendships and the joy from being involved with the patients as they mature. Caregivers are rewarded with the comfort of knowing that their beneficiaries are safe and relaxed. Most of all, we all are rewarded with knowing that everyone can have their needs fulfilled and by seeing and having beautiful smiles and healthy mouths.
We encourage you to learn more about finding a pediatric dentist by contacting the
Academy of Pediatric Dentistry or by calling one of the Imagix Dental locations, or Legacy Pediatric Dentistry in Kennesaw.