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Who We Help—Special Needs Dentist in Grand Prairie, TX

Ready to Serve Every Smile

a group of people with various special needs

Our mission at Disability Dental Services is to give patients with a wide variety of special needs easy access to high-quality, personalized dental care in a comfortable environment. Dr. Ford and our team have several years of experience serving patients with many unique challenges, so no matter your loved one’s situation, you can trust they’ll be in great hands here. Be sure to give us a call and tell us about them so we can guarantee they have a great appointment!  To learn more about some of the disabilities we’re able to accommodate, read on below.  

Why Choose Disability Dental Services?

Intellectual Disability

young boy with an intellectual disability

For patients with intellectual disabilities, we know that having patience is the best way to guarantee a smooth appointment. We’re more than happy to explain each part of a procedure and show what the different instruments do so the patient can understand what’s going on and relax. If needed, sedation can help calm any lingering nerves as well. In our experience, after a few good visits, patients start to unconsciously associate our office with safety and comfort, making follow-up visits nice and easy.

The Unique Dental Challenges for People with IDs

child with intellectual disability painting outside

People with intellectual disabilities tend to have difficulty maintaining a self-care routine, and this includes brushing and flossing their teeth every day. As a result, they tend to experience a much higher rate of cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss compared to the rest of the population.

And, especially for those who are non-verbal, they may have oral habits they use to soothe themselves that can be detrimental to their oral health, such as thumb sucking, lip/cheek biting, or teeth grinding.

The types of medication a person is taking can lead to dental issues as well, as a common side effect is dry mouth, in which there isn’t enough saliva being produced. This makes it easier for harmful oral bacteria to develop.

And lastly, bringing a patient with an ID to the dentist can be extremely difficult, as the unfamiliar people, sounds, smells, and instruments can cause a lot of anxiety and fear. All of this is why it’s important for these kinds of patients to visit a specialist who can accommodate them and ensure they receive the care they deserve while minimizing their stress.

How We Help Patients with IDs in the Office

dentist using stuffed animal to explain cleaning to patient

Dr. Ford and our team understand that the term “intellectual disability” can refer to a wide range of cognitive conditions and symptoms, which is why we never treat two patients the same way. We know to take things slow and can explain what’s going on during an appointment in various ways so the patient can feel safe and know what to expect. This may involve using pictures and demonstrations in addition to verbally explaining in a calm way.

We may recommend that you bring the patient in for a “happy visit” so they can become familiar with our office and staff. The point of the visit isn’t to provide dental care, necessarily, but rather to make a good first impression so the patient knows they are in a safe place. The patient can sit and play while the parent/caregiver talks to Dr. Ford about their dental and medical history, and then the staff will be introduced to them. Based on how things are going, we may perform a very quick and gentle exam.

As the child becomes more acclimatized to our office, we will start giving them complete checkups and cleanings, and if any issues pop up along the way, we will take the same patient approach when fixing them.

How We Help Patients with IDs at Home

father brushing teeth with child

In addition to hands-on care, our team can also work with you to help the patient establish an oral hygiene routine at home. We can show them how to brush and floss properly if they are able, and if not, we can show you how to do it for them in the safest and most effective way possible. We’ll recommend which oral healthcare products they should be using and provide guidelines based on their day-to-day routine so that taking care of their teeth becomes normal very quickly.

How to Prepare the Patient for Their Visit

mother reading book to young daughter

Before you bring the patient in for a dental appointment, it’s best to start talking about the dentist a few weeks or even months beforehand. Read books to them about dental visits and play “dentist” if you can, where you and the person switch off being the dentist and patient. Through play, you can get them used to holding their mouth open so it isn’t new when they come to see us. Of course, if you ever need help or want input ahead of an appointment, you can always call our team, and we can put together a tailormade plan with you so their relationship with our office starts on the right foot.

Epilepsy

little girl laughing

Life is unpredictable and a little scary for people with epilepsy, and our team is ready to handle whatever happens. We can sedate an epileptic patient so it’s guaranteed they remain still during their appointment, and should they suffer a seizure while in our office, our team knows how to manage it to keep them and everyone else safe.

Muscular Dystrophy

young girl with muscular dystrophy at the beach

Thanks to our wide hallways and wheelchair accessibility, patients with muscular dystrophy don’t have any issues moving through our office. With our Versatilt Wheelchair Lift, moving a patient and performing procedures without removing them from their chair is simple and comfortable.  

Multiple Sclerosis

close-up of hands holding MS ribbon

We understand that sitting or laying down for an extended period of time can be quite unpleasant for a patient with multiple sclerosis, which is why in addition to offering sedation, our team will also work very efficiently while still delivering excellent care.

The Unique Dental Challenges for People on the Autism Spectrum

young boy with autism wearing headphones

As a special needs dentist, Dr. Ford understands that the keyword in the phrase “autism spectrum” is spectrum because the condition can manifest in very different ways. Some people are functional and can communicate relatively well but have sensory sensitivities, while others are nonverbal and have trouble understanding changes in their environment (like going to an unfamiliar dental office). Because of these issues and more, people on the spectrum tend to suffer from higher rates of cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Sensory issues can lead someone to avoid daily oral hygiene, or they might have a restrictive diet that mainly consists of sugary foods. An inability to communicate can prevent a person from telling their caregiver that their tooth hurts or their gums are sensitive, allowing a small problem to become much larger. Thankfully, people on the spectrum don’t tend to have more congenital or genetic dental problems than the average population, but we understand that a personalized approach and gentle touch are essential when they are under our care.

How We Help People on the Autism Spectrum in the Office

young boy laughing at hand puppet

Our entire team at Disability Dental Services understands that patience and adaptability are extremely important when serving patients on the autism spectrum, and thankfully, we’re able to accommodate absolutely everyone. This way, both the patient as well as their caregiver can relax while we give them a healthy, confident smile.

Most professional dental organizations as well as autism advocacy groups recommend dental desensitization, or in other words, exposing the person to the sights, sounds, smells, and people associated with the dentist in a slow, meaningful way as to not overwhelm them. That’s why we recommend that caregivers bring the patient to our office for a “get-to-know-you” visit where we won’t actually provide hands-on care. Rather, the patient will have a chance to become familiar with our office and staff. We can become aware of any sensitivities before they are sitting in the chair, and if they have questions for us, we’ll take all the time needed to answer them. That way, when they come in for a procedure, it will go much smoother.  

How to Prepare the Patient for Their Visit

caregiver working with young boy with autism

Other than scheduling the pre-visit we mentioned above, we ask that you call ahead and let your dentist for disabled adults know about any sensitivities or preferences the patient has so they can keep them in mind once they are here. At home, try to explain the basics of how a dental visit works, and there are plenty of friendly, easy-to-understand picture books that can help with this.

Be prepared to stay with the patient throughout their visit to the office. You will not only provide a source of comfort but also help them communicate with the staff. This will help us keep them calm and relaxed and ensure we fully understand their needs. It’s also recommended to bring a comfort item if they have one, be it a stuffed animal, toy, or anything else they can use to self-soothe.

How We Help People on the Autism Spectrum at Home

father high-fiving son with autism

One of our big goals for people on the spectrum is to help them establish a consistent oral hygiene routine at home that involves daily brushing and flossing. We can use a variety of methods to communicate why these practices are important, plus we will explain the proper techniques for each step. We’ll also work with you to give them the tools they need to communicate if they are experiencing tooth pain or another type of dental issue.

In addition to using visual aids and brushing alongside them at home to establish the routine, it’s also important to find the right brush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash that avoids any sensitivities. Once a patient discovers a flavor or texture that they like (or doesn’t cause discomfort), then at-home care typically becomes much easier.

Down Syndrome

teenage boy with Down syndrome

People with Down syndrome tend to suffer from a higher rate of oral health issues like cavities and missing teeth compared to the average population, which is why we highly prioritize hygiene and at-home care with this type of patient. For those who are nervous or scared of the dentist, our team’s warm demeanor is tremendously helpful, and our sedation services can also soothe them so that they feel completely safe.

The Unique Dental Challenges for People with Down Syndrome

two people with Down syndrome making art together

People with Down Syndrome can develop oral health problems more often than the average population because of factors like:

  • Difficulty establishing and maintaining oral hygiene at home.
  • Issues with maintaining a “teeth healthy” diet.
  • A compromised immune system that makes oral infections more likely.
  • Small teeth and an underdeveloped upper jaw that can cause an unbalanced bite.
  • Undersized upper jaw, which can lead to permanent teeth becoming impacted (stuck while erupting).
  • Larger than average tongue that can place pressure on the teeth and alter their position over time.

How We Help People with Down Syndrome in the Office

young child with Down syndrome smiling

Our main goal when we first meet a patient with Down Syndrome is to make sure they feel comfortable in our office and around our staff. To help with this, please speak with our team before bringing your child or family member in for an appointment. If they are afraid of dental care or can’t self-soothe, we might recommend sedation to help calm their nerves.

From there, a big part of their care will revolve around making sure their teeth and bite line up properly. Doing so will correct any misalignments (which can lead to pain as well as chewing, speaking, and breathing problems) and also allow the permanent teeth to come in without issue. To accomplish this, we may recommend orthodontic treatment, in which case they will be referred to a specialist.

They will receive routine cleanings, and a big focus will be on preventing and/or managing gum disease. Gum disease is the most common dental problem in the entire world, and in addition to having symptoms like red, swollen, and tender gums, it is also the leading cause of tooth loss. Plus, oral infections caused by gum disease have been shown to strongly correlate with other health problems, namely cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

How We Help People with Down Syndrome at Home

If your loved one doesn’t have a consistent oral hygiene routine at home that involves brushing, flossing, and using a mouth rinse, we can help them establish one. Particularly, finding a mouth rinse and flossing tool that a patient likes is paramount in the ongoing prevention of gum disease. Instead of brushing twice a day, people with Down Syndrome can benefit from brushing three times a day, and perhaps after every meal and snack depending on the state of their oral health.

How to Prepare the Patient for their Visit

On top of contacting our team prior to their visit so we can prepare for them, you can also prep at home to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. Talk about the dentist with your loved one days or weeks ahead of time so they aren’t surprised, and try to only do so in a positive way. If they have never been before, you can read picture books to them so they have a better idea of what to expect (many are easily available). You can even “play” dentist, during which they get used to holding their mouth open like for an exam or cleaning. You might also plan to have them bring a comfort item (like a toy, stuffed animal, or blanket) to help them feel more at ease in the office.

Cerebral Palsy

young boy with Cerebral Palsy

There are many layers to cerebral palsy, and no patient’s condition is exactly the same. That’s why we’ll discuss a patient’s particular challenges before their appointment so we can accommodate them in every way. Our office is designed for easy assisted mobility and is extremely wheelchair accessible, plus sedation can be used to help the patient both physically and mentally relax.

Dementia/Alzheimer’s

daughter with elderly mother

It is especially important for patients with dementia/Alzheimer’s to receive regular oral care in order to preserve their overall health and quality of life. Our team understands that a lot of patience is necessary, and that a patient might not always understand what is going on. We’ll try to explain everything best we can, and if the patient is anxious, we can use sedation to calm their mind so they quickly relax.

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