Disabled (physical and mental)

  Population considerations

  • Limited skills and abilities.  Physical and mental disabilities may make routine self-care, such as oral health, difficult (Lange, 2000).
  • Increased anxiety.Anxiety can be higher among individuals who are mentally disabled. Unfamiliar environments, instruments and sounds can lead to more anxiety and resistance in these individuals (Yilmaz, 1999).
  • Sugar intake.For children with special needs, diets are extremely important.  Many pediatric medicines contain sugar and are often prescribed long-term to children with chronic medical problems such as heart defects and epilepsy, which can contribute to dental decay (Maguire, 1999).
  • Shortage of specialized providers.There may not be oral health care providers available with expertise in treating individuals with disabilities. Oral health care providers may experience a lack of confidence when working with individuals with disabilities (Lange, 2000).
  • Pain and time of procedures. Advanced dental procedures can be difficult for individuals with disability due to pain and length of procedure (Yilmaz, 1999).

  Strategies to address these considerations

  • Provide caregiver training. Many individuals with disabilities require assistance of a caregiver for most self-care activities (Lange, 2000). Educate caregivers on appropriate oral health practices.
  • Increase provider skills. Provide continuing education for providers about oral health care for individuals with disabilities.
  • Limit sugar intake. Educate providers and caregivers about the importance of limiting sugar intake. Providers can prescribe sugar-free versions of medication. 
  • Tailor treatments. Oral health care providers may need to alter their treatment style for individuals with disabilities. Providers can learn techniques to address anxiety, resistance, pain and length of procedures.

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