Young African American man in wheelchair wearing mask, with black-and-white pictures on a white wall behind him.Disabilities may affect anyone and their family at any time. Some people are born with disabilities; others acquire them as a result of disease, trauma, or aging processes. Individuals in need of accommodation by a special needs dentist could include an older adult with memory loss, a person with arthritic hands trying to hold a toothbrush, or an amputee.

Often, people with cognitive, developmental, or physical disabilities have difficulty finding a dental team that is willing and able to meet their dental needs. At Penn Dental Medicine, we believe in preparing each of our student dentists to meet the needs of disabled individuals from the very beginning of their training. By building confidence and competence early on, we equip our student dentists for a lifetime of serving patients with special needs

Debuting this January, our Personalized Care Suite is the new home of the Center for Persons with Disabilities. In addition to providing outstanding dental care, it’s where patients with disabilities receive customized services to promote long-term oral health. We develop helpful new products, preventive techniques, and resources for use by patients, their caregivers, and even our fellow health care providers.

Every Penn Dental Medicine student will rotate through the Center and learn from an exceptional, interdisciplinary faculty while serving patients with conditions that range from autism and Alzheimer’s to paralysis, movement disorders, and complex medical conditions, plus much more.

Our new space includes: 

  • A quiet room for patients extremely sensitive to light and sound.  With low lighting, this room is designed to help calm patients who are quickly overstimulated. 

A comfortable, padded floor allows the provider and patient to get acquainted on the floor if necessary. This room can also be accessed from the hallway to avoid any anxiety triggers that might arise from passing through our main reception area.  This room can also be utilized for those requiring care in a bed or stretcher. 

  • A six-chair open air design in which several dental chairs are arranged in one large area with privacy separation for all patients. The advantage of this layout is the large, spacious area for those receiving care. 

Each chair in the open bay is equipped with digital radiology and nitrous oxide, a type of inhalation sedative that relaxes the patient without putting them to sleep. Our team will include student dentists, hygienists, registered dieticians, and of course, dental faculty members skilled at delivering care to patients with all types of needs. Our oral health navigators, who are specially trained in connecting patients with services, will facilitate scheduling and follow-up with patients.

  • Six closed operatories for patients preferring maximal privacy during their visit. These rooms feature sliding doors for easy navigation, adjustable lighting, and blackout shades, and are all equipped to deliver nitrous oxide as needed. 
  • Hover chair rooms for patients who are not ambulatory. Three rooms will feature special hover chairs that can glide across the floor with a simple push, unlike a typical dental chair, which can be difficult to move. Hydraulic movement allows the hover chairs to be moved with ease so that patients can be treated while on their stretcher or wheelchair.  
  • A wheelchair lift, created for patients who prefer to remain in their own wheelchair. The lift tilts the occupant back so that the dentist can provide a safer, more comfortable, and less stressful procedure while the patient is seated in his or her wheelchair.
  • A radiology facility, because dentists know that you can’t treat what you can’t see. The suite features its own Cone Beam Imaging Technology (CBCT), a diagnostic tool that provides the precision necessary to create appropriate treatment plans when patients may not be able to tolerate conventional x-ray imaging. This unit will allow individuals to remain seated in their wheelchair or on a chair. 
  • Consultation rooms, where dentists meet with patients around a table to discuss their needs, as opposed to in a dental chair, either pre-session or as a follow-up. These rooms are large enough to accommodate both individuals in wheelchairs and multiple caregivers. Consult rooms are utilized to determine the accommodations required to provide for a patient’s oral health needs. We seek to solve the most critical oral health needs through research in our Innovation Laboratory.
  • Colgate Innovation Laboratory, which develops self-care products 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 innovation initiatives. 

If you’re seeking a special needs dentist, our Personalized Care Suite is designed to meet a wide range of needs. And, we are always looking for ways to improve how we deliver care to patients. 

As a dental school, we offer highly affordable fees to patients and accept direct payments from most dental insurance plans, including Medicaid. Penn Dental Medicine can also work with you to develop payment financing plans as needed.

To learn more about the Personalized Care Suite or to make an appointment, please call 215-898-8180. 

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