Special Needs DentistrySanta Barbara, CA
Dental care is an integral part of maintaining your overall health. Unfortunately, many special needs patients have trouble finding the right practitioner to accommodate them. Special needs dentists understand how to put the patient first no matter what the circumstances are. Our dentist is also an anesthesiologist who can provide special needs dental treatment to both adults and children.
Special needs dentistry is available at Santa Barbara and the surrounding area. Everyone deserves access to quality dental care, no matter what accommodations they need. Call us today at 805-920-2133 to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our services.
Special Needs Dentistry and Autism
Autistic persons, like other persons with developmental disorders, often have severe oral aversions and hypersensitivity. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with autism often lack the social skills that make neurotypical individuals comfortable in a clinical setting. For instance, they may avoid eye contact and want to self-isolate. They may be unresponsive to people speaking to them, have trouble expressing their needs, or repeat actions over and over again.
These situations can be stressful for patients, caregivers, and inexperienced practitioners. Special needs dentists understand how to navigate these situations with ease. This experience is especially important when considering that 20-25% of autistic patients exhibit signs of bruxism or teeth grinding. Other common issues include, but are not limited to:
- Non-nutritive chewing
- Tongue thrusting
- Ulcerations created by self-injury
- Poor oral hygiene
- Limited dietary preferences
The right dentist must be both knowledgeable and compassionate to treat such issues while also instilling good oral health habits. They must understand how to make patients feel safe even when they themselves are placed under pressure.
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Special Needs Dentistry and Dementia
Unfortunately, elderly patients are particularly predisposed to severe periodontitis and tooth decay. This is usually due to their medical conditions or prescription medications. When left untreated, such issues can quickly end up negatively affecting overall health. They may also manifest as painful conditions that are both costly and risky to treat — especially since periodontitis is linked with various systemic conditions that could lead an older patient to a lengthy hospital stay. Even if they recover, patients’ quality of life may suffer, as tooth removal and dentures may be necessary.
Dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease) is a particularly complicated condition to treat because the patient may no longer be capable of maintaining their own oral health. Consequently, they may not understand the importance of oral hygiene, know how to express symptoms of oral health issues or pain, or even given informed consent for treatment or tolerate removable prostheses (without the help of a caregiver).
Thus, early detection is vital for elderly patients. Additionally, patients with dementia benefit most from compassionate dentists who understand how to establish a rapport with them while making the accommodations they need.
Special Needs Dentistry and Sedation and Anesthesia
Typically speaking, special needs patients are more likely to develop health problems of all kinds — including dental. However, like all other medical procedures, dental procedures require a certain degree of trust and communication to be present in the doctor-patient relationship. Many special needs patients find it difficult or even impossible to establish this sort of rapport. In such cases, sedation and anesthesia may be necessary for the patient to receive the most comfortable and successful care.
As every patient is different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sedation and special needs dentistry. Our skilled dentist is also a licensed anesthesiologist, which allows our team to account for every patient’s unique needs. There are three different levels of sedation: conscious sedation, deep sedation, and general anesthesia.
A patient under conscious sedation will still be able to respond to physical stimulation and verbal commands. Deep sedation will accompany a partial loss of reflexive control. General anesthesia is an induced state of unconsciousness, where the patient cannot respond to stimulation of any kind.
Call Us Today
Everybody needs routine dental treatment. We at the Dental Sedation and Implant Center are proud to offer special needs dentistry to patients of all ages. Call us today at 805-920-2133 to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our services.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I help my autistic child feel more comfortable visiting the dentist?
Start early, if possible. It is ideal to begin regular dental checkups at six months and continue to come into the office every six months. Do not show your own dental anxieties in front of your children. Instead, stress the importance of good dental care by familiarizing them with in-office procedures. Demonstrate proper oral hygiene practices at home.
What type of training do you have to undergo to treat children with special needs?
While all dentists must go to dental school, pediatric dentists must also undergo two additional years of schooling after graduation. It is during this time that they learn how to treat patients with special needs.
I am a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s disease. How can I help them maintain their dental health?
In the early stages, dental care should focus primarily on prevention. Take the patient to get regular check-ups and help them clean and floss their teeth. As the disease progresses, the patient may forget how to take care of their oral health or resist assistance. If this happens, try providing them with short, simple instructions. Walk them through each step of the process, demonstrating yourself if necessary.
How can I help my loved one take care of their dentures?
Remove them from the mouth for at least four to eight hours every day, taking care to clean and store them in a cup or bowl filled with water. Do not clean them with toothpaste, as this may cause damage. Simply rinse them under running water and brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
How long does it take for sedation to wear off?
The answer varies on a case-by-case basis. Factors that may influence recovery time include the dosage received, the type of sedation or anesthesia the patient has undergone, the length of treatment, and the patient’s body chemistry. Patients may experience some nausea or drowsiness upon waking. This is normal and no cause for concern. You can rest easy knowing that Dr. Winn, D.D.S., is a diplomate of the National Dental Board of Anesthesiology and a fellow of the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology.
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