When Dental Care and Disabilities Meet

Dental care and disability
Disabled person in waiting room

Everyone needs consistent high-quality dental care to support their overall health. Sometimes, people with disabilities may feel that getting the dental care they need is out of reach since special care needs to be taken to accommodate their physical or mental disabilities. If you’re disabled and haven’t seen a dentist in a while, rest assured that your disability should not keep you from getting the oral health care you deserve. Here are some ways people with disabilities are accommodated during a dentist visit.

Visible and Invisible Disabilities

Some disabilities are obvious, while others are not. For example, a mental health disability may not be immediately evident. Dentists can provide care to those with obvious disabilities and less obvious disabilities. The dentist’s goal is always to provide focused, individualized treatments to meet the needs of the patients, regardless of disabilities. The accommodations below may apply to both visible and invisible disabilities.

Mental Health Concerns

For someone suffering from anxiety or other mental health conditions, a dental appointment can be uniquely challenging. The right dentist can help to ease any concerns their patients have and ensure that they’re as comfortable as possible. There are treatment options a person with anxiety and other mental health challenges can explore with the dentist that may make oral health care easier.

For example, sedation dentistry can be a good option for anyone who suffers from severe dental care anxiety (dentophobia). Shorter appointment times with treatments spread over an extended period of time can also help. There are solutions that your dentist can provide, so don’t hesitate to ask for support.

Hearing Impairment

If you’re hearing is impaired, it is important to notify your provider. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that two to three children out of every 1,000 are born hearing impaired in the United States every year. A big part of oral health care is prevention through education. The provider must know that the patient is hearing impaired to adjust how they communicate with them.

Hearing aids and other adaptive devices do not have to be removed during treatment. Special precautions can be taken to protect hearing devices. If you rely on hearing aids, you can keep them in or take them out, depending on which makes you the most comfortable during your treatment. Just make sure your dentist is fully aware of whether you can hear them.

Mobility-Related Disabilities

If you use a wheelchair or other mobility tools, your dental office should be able to accommodate you. A practice that prioritizes treating people with disabilities should have assistive equipment to help the dentist to provide care in comfortable surroundings. Having a mobility impairment does not have to keep you from getting the care you deserve.

Call ahead before your appointment to let the staff know that you use a wheelchair. This will ensure that, if any special accommodations need to be made, they are ready when you arrive. Most practices are well-equipped to manage care for patients that are mobility impaired.

Physical Disabilities

Diabetes, heart disease, aids, pregnancy, and other conditions can be considered health disabilities. These physical conditions can impair your body’s ability to ward off infection, including infections in your teeth and gums. For example, gingivitis is a common occurrence in American adults that may be exacerbated by other conditions. According to the NIH, about 50% of adults have gingivitis that impacts, on average, three to four teeth. Physical health disabilities and the medication you take to control those disabilities can play a role in developing oral infections and diseases.

Your dentist must be aware of all the medication you take and whether your health condition is well controlled. They must take special precautions to ensure proper care is delivered.

People with disabilities are often prone to other illnesses, and they may even be more susceptible to the cold and flu, which means special precautions must be taken to reduce the risk of exposure. If you are disabled and running a fever between 100.4-104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the normal fever range according to the CDC, this is one of the only incidents where you should cancel your appointment. In virtually every other instance, regardless of your disability, a dentist can see you.

Regular dental care for everyone is a must. It improves the quality of life and helps promote overall good health. Don’t let a disability stop you from getting the oral health care you deserve.