Special needs patients can be defined as children or adults with a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional condition that substantially limits one or more major life activity and who need dental or health services beyond what is generally required.
Some of the more common conditions that require special care in dentistry include Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epileptic or seizure disorders, vision and hearing impairments, cleft lip/palate and other craniofacial conditions, and learning and developmental disabilities.
Pediatric dentists are the dental professionals of choice for children with special needs. Their education as specialists - two or more years beyond dental school - focuses on care for children including those with special needs. Almost all pediatric dentists (99.5 percent) report that they care for patients with special needs.
As a parent of a child with special needs, you may have concerns about your child’s tolerance of a dental visit. Whatever your concerns, do not postpone preventive dentistry for your child. Pediatric dentists understand that each child is unique and may need extra care to feel comfortable during dental treatment. For example, one child might do great with positive communication, another might benefit from a body blanket to help control involuntary movements, and still another might need mild sedation to feel relaxed during treatment. Pediatric dentists stand ready with a variety of possible approaches; you can help select the approach that is best for the specific health and behavioral needs of your child.