Disability Resources for Dental Providers
Information about seeing a dentist
People with disabilities can face unique challenges with respect to their oral health. It may be more difficult for people with disabilities to brush or floss, or they may be more susceptible to tooth decay or gum disease due to physical changes, dietary restrictions or medications.
In addition, dental clinic accessibility can be a significant barrier to receiving care.
Dental providers can play a major role in helping people with disabilities improve and maintain oral health and overall health.
Changes to clinic workflows, processes and building layout can help better support people with disabilities. Assess your dental clinic for accessibility and make modifications as needed. Clinic staff should ensure clinic policies and procedures reflect the needs of people with disabilities (accessible forms, scheduling accommodations, etc.) and ensure coordinated care by including the patient, guardian(s), caregiver and health care providers and specialists in decision-making processes.
Clinic accessibility resources
- Access to medical care for individuals with mobility disabilities (PDF) - American Disabilities Act
- Wheelchair Transfer: A Healthcare Provider's Guide (PDF) - National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
- Protect Your Business, Remove Barriers - Minnesota Council on Disability
- Service Animals in Dental Health Care Settings - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Dental professionals should seek out available training opportunities like disability etiquette, cultural competency, health literacy and dental care delivery for people with disabilities. Gaining knowledge, understanding and skills in these areas can increase capacity to support people with disabilities.
Online disability trainings
- Disability Awareness and Other Training. Minnesota Council on Disability.
- Oral Health for People with Special Needs On-Line Education Course. Special Care Dentistry Association.
Dental professionals can find advanced training on working with people with disabilities through continuing education programs.
The Minnesota Council on Disability provides several trainings on various topics like disability rights and building accessibility.
Recommendations and guidelines of care
- Disability and Health Information for Health Care Providers - CDC
- Dental Care and Developmental Disabilities - NIDCR
- Special Care: An Oral Health Professional's Guide to Serving Children with Special Health Care Needs - National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
- Best Practices Approaches for Oral Health Care for People with Special Health Care Needs (PDF) - Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Not all disabilities are visible, and disabilities affect people in different ways. Ask your patient or their caregiver about limitations or accommodations. Talk through what to expect and discuss anything that may be an issue upfront. Follow recommendations from the Minnesota Council on Disability on disability etiquette. When working with patients regardless of ability, use plain language and explain concepts or care steps with the teach-back technique.
Keep Moving Forward - An interview series from the Minnesota Council on Disability featuring people with disabilities.
Dental Access Improvement Project: Special Needs BasicCare - Minnesota Department of Human Services
Building a Dental Home Network for Children with Special Health Care Needs in Minnesota - University of Minnesota