5 Key Steps in Finding a Special Needs Dentist

There may not be many, but there are qualified dentists experienced and willing to provide professional and consistent dental care to adults with special needs. With some help, you can find the right dentist that can meet your loved one’s needs. Here are some guidelines and resources to help you locate a special needs dentist near you.

To start, it’s helpful to know that the dental care industry has identified a branch of oral healthcare dedicated to the unique challenges faced by adults with disabilities. Called special needs dentistry, this specialty takes into consideration the American Disabilities Act (ADA), ensuring that all patients receive care in a manner that accommodates their specific needs. Dentists for special needs adults practicing special needs dentistry are not only skilled in providing dental treatment, they have undergone years of additional training in order to handle the physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects associated with caring for special needs adults.

Key Steps to Finding a Special Needs Dentist

When seeking a dentist for adults with special needs, it is helpful to have a roadmap to navigate the resources and services available. Identifying a dentist who specializes in caring for individuals with special needs involves more than just a simple search; it requires tapping into a network of resources, governmental agencies, and specialized health organizations dedicated to facilitating access to care for those with unique health considerations. Here are some steps you can take to make your search for a special needs dentist more efficient and successful:

  1. Dentist and dental assistant wearing protective gear and magnifying glasses provide dental services to a special needs patient.Research: Start compiling a list of potential dental care providers who specialize in special needs dentistry from some recommended sources:

State Health Departments

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit https://www.cms.gov

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

American Dental Association (ADA)

Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA)

Disability Rights Organizations

  1. Verify Credentials: Once you have a list, verify the dentist’s credentials, experience, and whether they are trained in special needs dentistry by visiting their website or by contacting the office directly.
  1. Check for Medicaid Acceptance: If Medicaid coverage is necessary, confirm with the dental office or use the CMS resources to find a special needs dentist who accepts Medicaid.
  1. Consult with PCPs: Your primary care provider or the individual’s medical specialist may also have recommendations for special needs dentists.
  1. Visit the Facility: If possible, visit the dental office to assess accessibility, the attitude of the staff towards special needs patients, and to discuss the specific accommodations that can be provided.

Partnership with Penn Dental Medicine (PDM)

Woods Healthcare has recently partnered with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. This collaboration is at the forefront of providing high-quality dental care to individuals with disabilities. The program leverages the expertise of PDM student dentists who are specially trained under the guidance of experienced professionals to cater to the dental needs of special needs adults.

Specialized Training and Facilities

Dentist and Dental resident reviewing digital x-rays on computer screen.

The dental professionals at PDM are well-versed in the various aspects of special needs dentistry, including understanding the importance of accurate assessment of a patient’s current dental and medical history, and the need for special accommodations. The Penn Dental Medicine at Woods facility is designed with the specific requirements of special needs patients in mind, featuring enhanced accessibility, optimal lighting, sound and stimulus control, and a range of specialized dental equipment to provide a comfortable and anxiety-free environment for patients.

Comprehensive Dental Services

The range of services offered at Penn Dental Medicine at Woods is extensive, ensuring that all aspects of oral health are addressed. These services include:

  • Oral exams and assessments
  • Regular and deep cleaning to prevent dental diseases
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • Digital x-rays for precise diagnosis
  • Night guards to prevent teeth grinding
  • Tooth restorations, crowns, bridges, dentures for dental rehabilitation
  • Root canal treatments
  • Restorations on implants placed at the PDM Phila location
  • Teledentistry services for remote consultations

Patient-Centric Care and Support

Patient wearing protective dark glasses in dental suite.One of the keys of special needs dentistry is the emphasis on patient-centric care. This includes flexible appointment scheduling, which allows for longer appointment times and scheduling at times of the day when the patient is most comfortable. Our team of dentists for special needs adults also play a vital role in educating caregivers on home dental care practices and recommending specialty products that facilitate maintaining good oral hygiene.

Continuum of Care

The Penn Dental Medicine at Woods center follows a continuum of care model, where patients receive ongoing, comprehensive dental care tailored to their needs and adaptable to their evolving health needs over time. If you are a caregiver of an adult with special needs looking for highly-qualified dental care, you can request an appointment here, or feel free to call us at 215-750-4004 for more information.