Special Needs Dentistry


Dental Care for Kids with Special Needs

Most special needs children have particular dental needs. Some special children are very susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, or oral trauma. Others require medication or a special diet to promote dental health. Still other children have physical difficulty with effective dental habits at home. The good news is, dental disease is preventable. A first dental visit by the first birthday will start your child off on a lifetime of good dental health. Your child will benefit from the preventive approach recommended for all children. That includes effective brushing and flossing, moderate snacking and adequate fluoride. Home care takes just minutes a day and prevents needless dental problems. Regular professional cleanings and fluoride treatments are also very beneficial. Sealants can prevent tooth decay on the chewing surfaces of molars where four out of five cavities occur.

If dental care is started early and followed conscientiously, every child can enjoy a healthy smile.

Pediatric dentists have two or more years of advanced training beyond dental school. Their education as specialists focuses on care for children with special needs. In addition, pediatric dental offices are designed to be physically accessible for special patients. Pediatric dentists, because of their expertise, are often the clinicians of choice for the dental care of adults with special needs as well.


FACT FISH: One in ten children ages five to eleven has never visited the dentist


What to Expect

Some children need more support than a gentle, caring manner to feel comfortable during dental treatment. Restraint or mild sedation may benefit your special child. If a child needs extensive treatment, the pediatric dentist may provide care at a local hospital. Your pediatric dentist has a comprehensive education in behavior management, sedation, and anesthesia techniques. He or she will select a technique based on the specific health needs of your child, then discuss the benefits, limits, and risks of that technique with you.

On your child's first visit with us, your pediatric dentist will:

  • Take a full medical history
  • Gently examine your child's teeth and gums
  • Develop a preventive care plan designed for your child's needs

Hospital Dentistry

Individuals with special needs, including very young children and those with developmental, medical, or behavioral issues may require general anesthesia in order to receive the dental treatment necessary for good health. In the interest of patient safety, we provide this care for our patients in the Pediatric Surgery Center at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital. Indications and considerations for hospital dental treatment include high levels of patient anxiety, limited comprehension, inability to accept treatment in a traditional dental setting, systemic illness, a complex medical situation, developmental delay, and the extent of dental treatment needed. 

Working closely with each child's physicians and Yale's pediatric anesthesia specialists, we strive to provide the best possible care in as safe, comfortable, and efficient a manner as possible. Coordinating medical and dental care allows us to provide treatment on a one-day basis for the vast majority of our young patients, avoiding the need for an overnight hospital stay. Our experienced staff makes a special effort to make each child's dental experience a safe and pleasant one. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss or have any questions or concerns about the best setting and plan for your child's care. 


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