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Effective Resources for Patients with Special Needs

Date: November, 2020

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

We have the opportunity to educate our patients every day in helping them develop an effective routine for oral care that promotes oral health. This opportunity comes with a great responsibility. It is important that we listen to our patients and in many circumstances their parents, guardians or another caregiver. Many days we get in a routine of giving the “brush twice a day and floss every day” explanation. However, for those patients with special needs, we need to pay close attention to their abilities and how they learn, to help them understand and participate in their oral care and oral health.

Identifying the need

Patients with special needs include those with cognitive or physical limitations that result in them needing additional assistance in their everyday routines. Regardless of which limitation, we need to take the time to listen to these patients and watch the movements they make. Take the time to identify why your patient has a special need and how this affects them, as well as any medications they are taking that may have implications for their oral health, before making a recommendation on how to modify their current oral care routine. Identifying the needs of your patient must include discussing current routines of all aspects of life. Additional things to keep in mind are the patient’s age and any caregivers the patient may have.

Helping young patients

Parents of children with special needs understand additional assistance will be needed in multiple aspects of their child’s life and routine. While they may understand the need, they may not understand the how. Children may come into your office requiring treatment that has been delayed. It’s possible that other physical needs were needing to be addressed and that poor oral health may have inadvertently developed. Your patient and their caregiver may need knowledge and resources. Verbal instruction alone may not be sufficient. Providing the caregiver with a guide so they can follow through and give reassurance is important. Knowing and understanding the obstacles they meet on a day-to-day basis is vital. Knowing if a child can brush alone, and whether they tend to give up easily or may have a short attention span, will be of great assistance in guiding your patient and their caregiver through a daily routine. The Colgate Magik toothbrush works with the Colgate Connect App, allowing for an interactive brushing experience that can empower children. This toothbrush is a great choice for young patients who have a short attention span and it makes brushing fun. The app directs brushing with a visual experience throughout the 2 minutes recommended for brushing. It is also a great choice for those who need guidance on where to brush better. The AI, or artificial intelligence, gives immediate feedback to help provide direction on where and how to brush for better results. This can help allow the child more independence during brushing.

Helping adult patients

Adults with a cognitive disability will have many needs that are similar to those of a child. However, they aren’t children. Adult patients with special needs require the same type of understanding and patience. They may or may not have a caregiver with them for their oral hygiene appointment. It is important to ask questions that will help you make the best recommendations. Much like the Colgate Magik toothbrush, Colgate has designed a smart brush for patients of all ages that also works with an app on iOS and Android devices. The Colgate Hum toothbrush guides the patient on proper technique, location, length of time in use and effectiveness of brushing. Its immediate feedback and tracking helps patients to see their routine on a day-to-day basis and lets them know where they need to give more attention and if they are getting better at brushing!

The Colgate Hum is also a great recommendation for those patients with physical limitations. Electric toothbrushes allow the patient to brush each quadrant with less brushing effort and without the technique needed for a manual brush. The app works alongside the brushing routine to show the patient when to move to the next area and whether they are applying too little, enough, or too much pressure. This feedback is also valuable for those patients with arthritis who may need reassurance that they are applying enough pressure during their brushing routine.

Take away

It’s important for patients with special needs to find value and reward in their daily routines, and they may need assistance in most aspects of their life. Inadequate oral health routines can lead to many more complications, including invasive dental needs. Having special needs does not mean the patient doesn't have or can't have a healthy lifestyle. Many times, they only need the resources to help them be healthier. Non-traditional resources, such as the Colgate Magik and Colgate Hum toothbrushes, can help patients with special needs brush more effectively on their own and can provide caregivers with help and reassurance that oral care needs are being met.