ADAA View Course

The Patient with Special Needs: General Treatment Considerations (AGD 750)

Presenter: Janet Jaccarino, CDA, RDH, MA


When you hear the term patients with “special needs” or “special care treatment” what comes to mind? As dental professionals we learn that every patient is an individual with his or her own set of special needs. A patient’s gender, age, race, culture, language, economic status, values, beliefs and past dental experiences all affect their treatment. The first dental visit for the pediatric patient, the emergency radiograph for the pregnant patient, or seating the geriatric patient with arthritis will not follow the same protocol. While most dental patients can receive oral health care in private practice settings, some patients have medical, physical or mental conditions that require adaptations to treatment beyond routine. Patients with disabilities, who make up a large segment of the population, are often overlooked when it comes to oral health care for a variety of reasons. However, it is our responsibility as dental health care professionals to meet the needs of this very special group of patients.


Janet Jaccarino, CDA, RDH, MA, was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Allied Dental Education in the School of Health Related Professions at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She taught dental hygiene and dental assisting students starting in 2000 and is now retired.


At the completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Define disability.
• Recognize the “patient with special needs.”
• Discuss deinstitutionalization.
• Identify reasons why preventive dental care is important for the patient with special needs.
• Describe the problems associated with access to oral health care for the special needs patient.
• Define the role of the dental team in providing care for the patient with special needs.
• Define special care dentistry.
• Consider physical factors in the office that influence provision of dental care for the special needs patient.
• State design characteristics of a barrier–free or universal design environment.
• Discuss simple design changes to an existing facility to improve access for disabled individuals.
• Discuss issues that may impact appointment schedules and treatment planning.
• List methods that will help desensitize the patient to dental treatment.
• Describe the rationale, methods and contraindications for use of protective stabilization during dental treatment.
• Describe the rationale and precautions for use of a commercial and office–fabricated mouth prop.
• List the information that is necessary for proper record documentation.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry.  Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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