Snodgrass-King Advocates Special Needs Dentistry by Celebrating Autism Awareness Month

Special Needs Dentistry Celebrates Autism Awareness Day

Autism Awareness Day, Special Needs Dentistry

The sixteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day was held on April 2, 2024, and every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. This year during Autism Awareness Month, Snodgrassking amplify their support of autism awareness by providing patients with special needs dentistry services.

What Is Special Needs Dentistry?

Special needs dentistry caters to a different segment of disabled patients. Special needs dentistry is a branch of dental care specifically focused on treating individuals with physical, medical, developmental, or cognitive conditions that require modified dental practices for effective management.

The patients comprised of “special needs” are patients with physical or mental issues such as:

  • Autism
  • Down syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Seizures
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Visual and hearing disabilities
  • Depression
  • Other patients with special needs include children with dental phobias and patients who require dental procedures immediately and all at once in an emergency situation.

People with special needs require delicate care, more than regular patients. This specialty acknowledges that people with special needs may face unique challenges in accessing traditional dental care due to their conditions. It can be challenging to provide them with proper oral care. These challenges can include difficulty in maintaining oral hygiene, increased anxiety levels during dental visits, or the need for specialized dental treatment approaches that consider their overall health and well-being.

This is why they need the help of special care dentists. Special care dentists are trained extensively in handling people with developmental disabilities and those who need special requirements. Even their assistants and office staff undergo training to be able to address the patient’s needs effectively. They work closely with caregivers, medical professionals, and the patients themselves to create a comfortable, safe, and effective dental care plan.

Why Choose a Special Needs Dentist?

The goal of special needs dentistry is to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their challenges, have access to the dental care they need in a manner that respects their dignity and individual circumstances. This approach helps prevent oral diseases, maintain overall oral health, and improve the quality of life for people with special needs.

Qualities of the Trained Dental Specialists at Snodgrass-King

Dentists who specialize in children’s dentistry are certified by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to also provide special needs dentistry. They offer a number of dental procedures to patients including teeth examinations, cleanings, fillings, and extractions. They also advise the children on how to do proper oral care.

Patience and Accuracy

A special needs dentist usually tailors his procedures based on the unique needs of a patient.  For pediatric dentistry, the appointment may take longer and are usually slower. The reason for this is the clinic may need a detailed medical history of the patient. For instance, they need to know if the patient is allergic to certain medications. They also need to know if the patient is seeing a medical practitioner regularly. The clinic will also take note of the medications the patients take on a daily basis. This is to ensure that the medications will not counteract with their treatments.


Dentists trained in special needs patients can easily discern what their patients personally require. Children, for instance, could get nervous during the appointment. They may cry or throw a tantrum because of the fear of the unknown. This is why you need to go to a dentist who has knowledge and experience in children’s dentistry.

Additionally, before you or your child’s first appointment, we recommend you meet with your dentist and establish expectations for the treatment.

Dentists trained in pediatric dentistry know how to put the child at ease during the procedures so the treatment will go smoothly. They can establish a relaxing environment so the patient will feel secure. The dentist may use a mild sedative to help the child relax.

Dentists who work with special needs patients also provide the necessary equipment specifically designed for the patients such as an operating theater. Knowledge and expertise are important when dealing with people with special needs. It can be challenging to deal with this demographic.


Above all, dentists who specialized in special needs dentistry also need to be compassionate and tolerant to their patients’ plight. This particular segment of patients requires additional care than the usual. If the practitioner is not understanding and tolerant, he may have a hard time dealing with children’s unexpected reaction. The patient has to be comfortable with the dentist. The relationship should not be strained. Establishing trust between the dentist and the patient is crucial to the success of the dental procedures. This is why choosing the right special needs dentist to work with is necessary.

What To Look For In a Special Needs Practice

Adaptive Dental Care Techniques

Adaptive care techniques in special needs dentistry are crucial for providing effective and compassionate dental treatment to individuals with unique physical, developmental, cognitive, or emotional needs. These techniques are tailored to each patient’s specific requirements to ensure a comfortable, safe, and successful dental visit. Here’s a deeper look into various adaptive care strategies:

Communication Adaptations

  • Non-verbal Communication: For patients who have difficulty with verbal communication, dentists might use visual aids, sign language, or picture boards to explain procedures and understand patient needs.
  • Simplified Language: Using clear, simple language or breaking down instructions into easy-to-understand steps can be beneficial for patients with cognitive impairments.

2. Environmental Modifications

  • Reduced Sensory Stimulation: For patients sensitive to noise, light, or touch, clinics might offer quieter tools, dimmed lights, or headphones to listen to music during procedures to create a more relaxing environment.
  • Physical Accommodations: Adjusting dental chairs, using supports or cushions, and ensuring wheelchair accessibility are ways to accommodate physical disabilities.

3. Behavioral Techniques

  • Desensitization: Gradually exposing a patient to dental procedures over several visits can help reduce fear and anxiety. This might start with simply sitting in the dental chair and progress to more involved procedures.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Offering praise or rewards after successful steps or cooperation during dental visits can encourage positive behavior and reduce anxiety.

4. Use of Sedation and Anesthesia

  • Mild Sedation: For patients who are anxious or have mild sensory sensitivities, mild sedation can help relax them without inducing sleep.
  • General Anesthesia: In cases where patients cannot tolerate dental work due to severe disabilities or extreme anxiety, procedures may be performed under general anesthesia to ensure their comfort and safety.

5. Specialized Dental Tools and Techniques

  • Modified Dental Instruments: Using softer or smaller instruments to accommodate patients’ needs or comfort levels can make a big difference.
  • Protective Stabilization: With consent, protective stabilization devices may be used to safely support patients who have difficulty staying still during treatment.

6. Patient and Caregiver Education

  • Customized Oral Hygiene Instructions: Providing training and resources to caregivers and patients on how to maintain oral hygiene at home, considering the patient’s specific abilities and limitations.
  • Routine and Familiarity: Establishing a routine for dental visits and maintaining the same dental team for appointments can help patients feel more secure and familiar with the process.

7. Interdisciplinary Collaboration

  • Collaborating with Other Healthcare Providers: Dentists may work with the patient’s medical doctors, therapists, or specialists to ensure a holistic approach to the patient’s health and to understand any contraindications or special considerations for dental treatment.

By employing these adaptive care techniques, dental professionals can significantly improve the dental care experience for patients with special needs, ensuring they receive the necessary treatments in a manner that respects their individual circumstances and promotes their oral health.