Disabilities can affect anyone at any time. Some people are born with disabilities; others acquire them from disease, trauma, or aging processes.
In the United States alone, more than 61 million people are living with cognitive, developmental, or physical disabilities. Often, these individuals have difficulty finding a special needs dentist with the skills, equipment, and experience necessary to meet their dental needs.
At Penn Dental Medicine, we believe in preparing each of our student dentists to meet the needs of persons with disabilities from the very beginning of their dental training. By building confidence and competence early on, we equip our student dentists for a lifetime of serving patients with special needs. That training begins in the Personalized Care Suite in the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities.
Training the Next Generation of Special Needs Dentists
Penn Dental Medicine’s Personalized Care Suite is the new home of the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities. Here, patients with disabilities receive high-quality, customized services to help promote their long-term oral health. In addition to providing exceptional patient care, our team develops helpful new products, preventive techniques, and resources for patients, their caregivers, and even our fellow health care providers.
To help support better dental care for people with special needs in the future, every Penn Dental Medicine student rotates through the Center. During this rotation, they learn from an exceptional, interdisciplinary faculty while serving patients with conditions that range from autism and Alzheimer’s Disease to paralysis, movement disorders, complex medical conditions, and more.
What Patients and Caregivers Can Expect at the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities
The Personalized Care Suite at the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities was designed with the needs of patients at the forefront, with advanced technology, tools, and thoughtful design elements that make the experience as comfortable as possible for everyone. From patient registration through treatment, patients can expect a personalized care experience that puts their needs first.
With that in mind, the space includes:
- A quiet room
Patients sensitive to light and sound can receive treatment in a space equipped with low lighting designed to help prevent overstimulation. Comfortable, padded flooring allows the provider and patient to get acquainted on the floor if necessary. This room is also accessible from the hallway to prevent any anxiety triggers that might arise from passing through our main reception area. Additionally, it is accessible for patients who need dental care in a bed or on a stretcher.
- A six-chair open bay
This treatment area allows several dental chairs to be arranged in one space with privacy separation for all patients. The advantage of this layout is the large, spacious area for all patients. Each chair in the open bay is equipped with digital radiology and nitrous oxide, an inhalation sedative that relaxes the patient without putting them to sleep.
- Six closed operatories
Patients who prefer maximum privacy during their visit can receive care from special needs dentists in these rooms. The spaces feature sliding doors for easy navigation, adjustable lighting, and blackout shades, and all are equipped to deliver nitrous oxide as needed.
- Hover chair rooms for patients who are not ambulatory
Three rooms feature special hover chairs that can glide across the floor with a simple push, unlike a typical dental chair, which can be challenging to move. Hydraulic movement allows the hover chairs to be moved with ease, allowing patients to receive treatment while on their stretcher or wheelchair.
- A wheelchair lift room Patients who prefer to remain in their wheelchairs can use the lift, which tilts the chair and its occupant back. This allows the special needs dentist to provide a safer, more comfortable, and less stressful procedure.
- A radiology room
Dentists can’t treat what they can’t see, so the Personalized Care Suite is equipped with a Cone Beam Imaging Technology machine. This diagnostic tool provides images that ensure providers can develop appropriate treatment plans, even for those patients unable to tolerate conventional X-ray imaging. This unit also allows patients to remain seated in their wheelchairs while images are captured.
- Consultation rooms
These private rooms give special needs dentists a place to meet with patients around a table to discuss their needs and treatment plans, as opposed to in a dental chair. The large spaces are comfortable and can be used before visits to discuss the accommodations necessary to best meet a patient’s oral health needs.
- Colgate Innovation Laboratory
Here, our teams work to develop self-care products to support the needs of people with disabilities, such as toothbrushes with special grips, automatic flossers, and “smart” products that connect with users’ cell phones. With the patient’s permission, we occasionally observe patient sessions to better inform our initiatives, which focus on solving the most critical oral health needs of our patients.
Quality Care from a Team of Expert Providers
The Personalized Care Suite at the Care Center for Persons with Disabilities is much more than a physical space. All patients work with a care team that includes student dentists, dental hygienists, registered dieticians, and of course, dental faculty members skilled at delivering care to patients with all types of needs. Patients also work with oral health navigators, who are specially trained in connecting patients with services and facilitate scheduling and follow-ups with patients.
Oral health is critical to the overall well-being of any individual, and having unique needs shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting the care they deserve. If you’re seeking a dentist for adults with special needs or a dentist for adults with disabilities, our Personalized Care Suite is designed to meet a wide range of needs.
As a dental school, we offer affordable rates to patients and accept direct payments from most dental insurance plans, including Medicaid. Penn Dental Medicine can also work with you to develop payment plans as needed.
To learn more about the Personalized Care Suite or make an appointment, please call 215-898-8180 or fill out the form below.
- Patient Resource Videos — Learn about the Personalized Care Suite with videos showing the space and sharing information on different dental procedures and what to expect at your appointment.
- Services in Langhorne, PA: Penn Dental Medicine at Woods Mikey Faulkner Dental Care Center opens to community
- Suburban Life Magazine’s feature article on our Care Center for Persons with Disabilities (“Access For All”, December 2022)
- Free eBook: Overcoming Oral Health Barriers for People with Disabilities
- Helen: The Journal of Human Exceptionality — the official Journal of the AADMD where people with disabilities, parents, and clinicians intersect for inclusive health. It features helpful articles, evidence-based best practices, advice to navigate the ability lifestyle, tools for advocacy & more.
- All Smiles Shine digital app — Available for free in both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store, this app helps the autism and IDD communities learn about oral healthcare, practice preventative care, and prepare for visits to the dental office.