Children with Special Needs: Special Considerations for Dental Procedures

For children with special needs, maintaining oral health is critical. Physical limitations, communication challenges and sensory issues add challenges to maintaining oral hygiene and good oral health. Poor oral health can lead to pain, disease, and lower quality of life.

Considerations for Children with Special Needs


Numerous factors must be considered when it comes to providing dental care for children with special needs.  These considerations can range from understanding unique medical histories physical limitations, sensory sensitivities and assessing the best way to successfully treat each individual child in the best and safest way.

A child’s medical history plays a significant role in the approach to dental care. For instance, children with Down Syndrome often have smaller oral cavities and delayed tooth eruption which can lead to crowding and other dental concerns. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have sensory issues that make simple tasks like brushing their teeth an overwhelming experience.

To ensure their comfort and safety, we need to consider the physical and cognitive abilities of each child. Children with physical disabilities may require modifications in the dental chair, while those with cognitive disabilities may need additional time and explanations to comprehend what is happening during the visit.

Just like any other child, those with special needs may require a variety of dental procedures throughout their lifetime. Some of these procedures are preventative, like cleanings and fluoride treatments, while others are corrective, like fillings, crowns, and orthodontic treatment.

Due to the unique considerations for children with special needs, performing dental procedures may require additional training and experience for the dentist and their team. For instance, children with sensory issues may have a hard time tolerating the vibrations and noises of a dental handpiece, making a simple filling a very stressful and difficult experience.

Similarly, children with physical disabilities may find it challenging to keep their mouths open for extended periods, making many procedures more difficult. Therefore, it is critical for parents and dentists to understand each child’s unique situation and approach their treatment accordingly.

Special Considerations When Performing Dental Procedures for Children with Special Needs


When performing dental procedures on children with special needs, we need to take a few special considerations into account. Firstly, communication is key. Due to cognitive or speech impairments, special needs kids may not be able to express their discomfort or fear verbally. It is essential to observe non-verbal communication and to be patient, considerate and reactive to non-verbal communication.

Secondly, it's essential to create a calming and comfortable environment. Bright lights, unfamiliar sounds, and the sight of dental instruments can many times be overwhelming. Using dimmer lights, playing soft music, and introducing them in advance to the place and people performing the treatment can help to alleviate their anxiety and make for a better experience.  Pediatric Dentists have additional training and understanding of these special considerations and challenges and are typically better able to handle special needs kids.

Lastly, sedation may be needed for the treatment of some children, especially if the child has severe anxiety or is unable to sit still for extended periods. This should always be done under the supervision of trained professionals who understand the child's medical history and unique situation.

The Role of Sedation in Handling Children with Special Needs


Sedation and general anesthesia play a crucial role in handling children with special needs. When the assessment by the parent and general or pediatric dentist has concluded that treatment in a regular dental office is not the best choice for that child, the child should be referred to receive dental treatment under sedation.  Hapy Bear Surgery Center has specialized in treating these children.  Our top priority is safety. We have a dedicated team including a dentist, separate anesthesia provider, nurse and dental assistant that is assigned to care for each patient.  We serve as the gateway to treatment for special needs kids and we hope this leads to a lifetime of improved oral health. Our patience, compassion, and specialized knowledge make us uniquely equipped to handle the challenges and rewards of this important task.

Ensure a Brighter Smile for Your Child with Special Needs


Understanding the special and unique considerations for your child with special needs helps you make the best decisions to maintain their oral health. 

If you have a child with special needs who needs unique considerations for their dental treatment, contact Hapy Bear Surgery Center at our Tulare, California office. We strive to provide the highest quality and compassionate dental care to each patient that needs our services. Please call (559) 732-4279 to discuss any questions with our team of experts or to schedule an appointment today.

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