Access to dental care should be available to all patients without discrimination. The American Dental Association has renewed its commitment to helping give optimal oral care for disabled patients. Discussing the inequities for those with disabilities is important in every aspect, but American Dental Association President Cesar R. Sabates and American Medical Association President Gerald Harmon, M.D. discussed that the disparity of care is an aspect they want to teach upcoming medical students.
Oral health for disabled patients may come with more barriers, extra health concerns, and social disparities. Although dental care may not seem related to physical or mental disabilities, 1 in 4 Americans has a disability, and those with physical disabilities often have more health problems. So what are the community and dental practices doing to improve the space for disabled patients? Here are some items that are being implemented.
ADA Code Of Professional Conduct
The ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct states that “dentists shall not refuse to accept patients into their practice or deny dental service to patients because of the patient’s race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or disability.” The Commission on Dental Accreditation requires that dental graduates are competent and receive knowledge on how to treat patients with special needs.
All dental practices also must provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities and respond reasonably to any request. Dental websites will also need to be accessible to those with disabilities so that they can access the resources of the practice.
Access To The Office Space
For those who need a wheelchair or walker to get around, having a small office space is not ideal. Creating a space that is easy to navigate and with disability-accessible dental chairs can make those patients feel seen and more comfortable in your office.
Knowledge About Motor And Neuromuscular Problems
For those who have motor disabilities and neuromuscular problems, treating their mouth can be a little bit of a challenge. Working oral care for disabled patients may require some extra training for dentists, or just communicating with the patient or caretaker about how to best perform a cleaning. For dental procedures, some patients may need to be sedated in order to best perform the work.
The key to everything is communication and providing oral care for disabled patients is no exception. Dentists are more communicative with all their patients and are working to talk with their staff and hygienists about patients who may need accommodations.
Communication is also important with the patient. Dental offices need to be open with patients and work together to help them have the best experience possible. Oral care for disabled patients doesn’t always need to be complicated, it can be as simple as having extra laughing gas on hand, talking about things that could go wrong, or making sure that handicapped parking spots are available.
Communication before the appointment can also alleviate some anxiety for the patient. Knowing what to expect helps us to not be so fearful of a new situation.
Special Care Dentistry Association
The Special Care Dentistry Association is an international organization committed to promoting oral health for those with special needs. They provide educational opportunities for oral health care professionals and networking events so that dentists can learn from others.
SCDA also advocates legislation in shaping the education of dental residency students to include a more comprehensive scope of special needs patients. SCDA is a great resource in helping improve oral care for disabled patients. SCDA says that if your practice has not experienced a special needs patient yet, you definitely will. It is best to be prepared and give everyone the same access to quality dental care.
Another resource for those with disabilities is Special Smile, which provides free oral health care for those participating in the Special Olympics. The organization has raised awareness and improved access to dental care for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Special Smile also provides training for healthcare professionals that are available online. These pieces of training can give providers the tools they need to be more inclusive and learn about how to provide optimal oral care for disabled patients.
Treatment For All Patients
Sunset Dental works to provide optimal care for all patients. Our dentists and hygienists are happy to serve you and want to keep your mouth healthy. If you have a disability or are worried about your visit, our office staff can chat with you about how to make your first visit go smoothly. We also believe in being completely upfront about dental work and giving you all the facts you need to know so you can make an informed decision. Our office wants you to have a beautiful and healthy smile. Contact us today to learn more!