Pick the Right Dentist for Your Special Needs Child

Pick the Right Dentist for Your Special Needs Child
Posted on 01/23/2019

blogpic1.23.19Finding a dentist for a special needs child can be difficult. While many dentists know how to meet the needs of pediatric patients, special needs children may require a dentist with extra experience and training. If you're a parent with a special needs child, here's what you need to know to find a dentist who can meet your child's needs.

Make a List of Professionals

Before you can pick the right dentist for your child, you must first create a list of possible dentists in your area.

If you're unsure about what dentists are available, speak to your child's doctor. Your child's pediatrician will know your child's needs very well and may also know some pediatric dentists in your area. Consult with your child's doctor at the next appointment.

If you have dental insurance, call your insurance for a list of pediatric dentists in your area. Finally, check on the website for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, where you can search for dentists by zip code.

Check the Location

Once you have a list, you'll need to start narrowing the choices. Visiting each office will give you some idea about how that dentistry practice operates and manages its patients. Check the cleanliness of the property in the lobby and parking lot. Also, furniture and carpeting should be in good condition. Toys in the lobby should be clean and relatively new.
Listen to the interactions between the staff and their patients. Does the staff address parents and pediatric patients with respect? Do they smile when they see their patients?
How does the practice keep children entertained? Does the office have books and toys? Do accommodations exist for special needs patients in the lobby, such as ramps for wheelchairs or extra wide doorways? Is the room well-lit and a comfortable temperature? These are all signs that a dentist's office has the needs of patients in mind.
Ideally, the practice will be in a location that you can reach easily and will have enough parking to accommodate all patients. These details will become important if you decide to choose this dentist for your child. If your child is in a wheelchair or needs extra space for a walker, note the accessibility of the parking lot when you visit.

Interview the Dentist

After viewing the location, the next step is to interview the dentist. Many dentists will need you to make a separate appointment if you want to have an extensive conversation. Write down your questions so that you'll have all of them ready when you meet with the dentist.

Meet with the dentist in person if you can. Meeting with the dentist in person gives you a chance to observe the dentist's mannerisms, which are important when your child and the dentist interact with one another. Below are some topics you should discuss with the dentist.


Pediatric experience may not be enough if your child has very particular needs. Find out how much experience your child's dentist has with patients who have conditions similar to your child's. Ask the dentist how they would handle the particular symptoms that your child displays.


Restraint becomes especially important for some special needs children. Not all special needs children can restrain themselves, and some do not understand the importance of restraint in the dentist chair. For this reason, dentists with special needs patients must manage restraint on their own. 
Dentists may choose to use various methods of restraint. Some of the most common types of restraint include the papoose board, anesthesia, and knee-to-knee technique (for young children). The method that your child's dentist uses should be a method that makes you feel comfortable, so find out what that method is in advance.

Behavior Management

Children with special needs sometimes pose unique behavior challenges. Each dentist must have a plan for handling those behavior challenges to ensure that your child is comfortable and well-behaved. Asking the dentist about their behavior management techniques will help you decide whether your child will respond well to that dentist.


If your child has a particular condition that affects their oral hygiene, you may find having a dentist who specializes in care for that type of condition helpful. Find out if the dentist has any particular type of certification or if that dentist has engaged in research that would benefit your child. 

Contact a Pediatric Dentist in Your Area

Finding the right dentist for your special needs child can help your child maintain good oral hygiene. In fact, your child's dentist plays an important role in teaching your child to take care of their own teeth and could affect your child's dental health well into adulthood.

If you have questions about your child's dental care and how you can find a dentist for your child, contact Dentistry for Children & Adolescents. We'll be happy to answer your questions about dental care for special needs children.


Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

  • Edina Office - 7373 France Ave. S., Suite 402, Edina, MN 55435 Phone: 952-831-4400
  • Burnsville Office - 14050 Nicollet Ave., Suite 100, Burnsville, MN 55337 Phone: 952-435-4102
  • Eden Prairie Office - 6385 Old Shady Oak Road, Suite 150, Eden Prairie , MN 55344 Phone: 952-932-0920

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