They say that a smile is a key that fits the lock of everyone’s hearts. What better way to maintain that curve of happiness than with proper oral care.

But other than making your smile more attractive, good dental health is also necessary to maintain a healthy mouth. Why is this important? Think about this: if the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the mouth is the window to a person’s overall health.

Your mouth provides a good insight as to whether or not you’re suffering from a chronic disease. Oftentimes, poor oral health is followed or accompanied by other health problems. More than that, regular visits to the dentist can also keep you away from bad breath, tooth decay, and even certain gum diseases.

Some People’s Dental Needs Are More Special Than Others 

While everyone deserves to have good dental care, there are people whose needs are more specific than others. People with certain physical and mental disabilities need specialized dental care that would cater to the issues that accompany their conditions. Thankfully, there’s a dentist for patients with special needs.

Introducing Special Needs Dentistry

Special needs dentistry, also called special care dentistry, is a field of dental care that specializes in providing oral health needs of people who are stricken with physical, medical, or psychiatric conditions. More often than not, these patients have various issues that restrict them from going to a regular dentist.

Individuals suffering from physical disabilities may require special help in order for them to get to the clinic, let alone the dental chair. Those with severe medical conditions would also require extra care when being treated, which makes it important for the dental team to get a hold of their medical history as well as the medicines that they take. On the other hand, patients with developmental and learning conditions may find the idea of going to the dentist to be too overwhelming.

Special needs dentists cater to a wide range of patients from those with spinal cord injuries to those with developmental problems like Down syndrome and autism.

Special Needs Dentists And Regular Dentists: What’s The Difference? 

  1. Qualifications. In order to become a general dentist, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree program, take the dental admission test, earn a dental degree, and get licensed. It takes a considerable amount of years just to become a regular dentist alone. But to become a special needs dentist, you would need to undergo an additional three-year postgraduate training. Once you do, you’d be able to be eligible for certification by the American Board of Special Care Dentistry.
  2. Patients. True to their name, special needs dentists cater to people with “special needs.” Hence, their patients come from a diverse group of people that could be found in hospital settings, nursing homes, or residential areas. Some could even be living in the slums or are homeless. As mentioned above, their patients are wider in range because they can both treat normal individuals and those with special conditions.
  3. Equipment. Because of the diversity of their patients’ conditions, special needs dentists would also need various special equipment apart from the ones needed by a regular dentist to conduct his/her practice. For example, wheelchairs are necessary for those patients who are unable to move on their own. Patients with uncontrollable movements, like those suffering from cerebral palsy, would need a specialized pillow to secure the neck and head safely. Special chairs, as well as special toothbrushes, are definitely needed for patients with autism in order to provide them comfort.
  4. Procedures. Basically, a special needs dentist can do all of the procedures a regular dentist can do. The difference, however, is when they need to adjust their procedures to accommodate the needs of special patients. That’s what special needs dentist are trained for: to provide the ever-changing needs of patients with special needs.

Conclusion

While there are many differences between regular and special needs dentists, the goal is still the same: provide efficient dental care to patients.

Without dentists, it would be hard to achieve optimal oral health. Special needs dentists, in their own way, are quite special themselves because they ease some of the burdens that their patients are already carrying and give them the ability to smile despite the challenges they are facing. They just have to put in a bit more effort than most. But always remember that a little effort goes a long way.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "What’s The Difference Between A Special Needs Dentist And A Regular Dentist?," in Medicalopedia, May 30, 2019, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/7508/whats-the-difference-between-a-special-needs-dentist-and-a-regular-dentist/].