Where can people with special needs get dental care?

Romesh Nalliah

Most individuals with special needs can receive dental care from their local general dentist. It is believed that 90% of individuals with special needs require minor/no modifications for dental management. For more complex cases, patients sometimes need an intra-venous sedation or general anesthetic. 

The New England Index is a useful website that helps locate a local dentist who has experience in managing individuals with special needs: 

For people with special needs to get dental care, the American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations suggests the following tips:
  • Inform the dentist about your special health or financial conditions.
  • Ask if the dentist has training and/or experience in treating patients with your specific condition.
  • Ask if the dentist has an interest in treating patients with your specific condition.
  • Find out if the dentist participates in your dental benefit plan (dental insurance program.)
  • Ask if the dental facility is accessible to the disabled.
In addition, the Council suggests that patients with special needs:
  • Call or write the dental director at your state department of public health.
  • Contact the nearest dental school clinic or hospital dental department, especially if it is affiliated with a major university.
  • Contact the Special Care Dentistry (Formerly Federation of Special Care Organizations in Dentistry), the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry for a referral.
  • Also, the National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse may have useful information.
  • Contact the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped (NFDH), a charitable affiliate of the American Dental Association. The NFDH, via several programs, facilitates the provision of comprehensive dental care for needy disabled, elderly, and medically compromised individuals.
  • Dentists and dental institutions organizing or participating in voluntary projects that care for uninsured and underserved patients will find information, and grant opportunities through Volunteers in Health Care (VIH).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.