#82 - Dental Visits for Patients with Special Needs


There are over 52 million people with disabilities in the U.S. and only 10 percent of dental professionals are prepared to treat them. What is being done about this and is there anything care providers can be doing to better support dental health?

Guest Kyle Guerin is the Executive Director of the Pacific Dental Services Foundation. The Pacific Dental Services Foundation improves oral healthcare to four distinct underserved populations, one of which is patients with special needs. They are leading the charge to make oral healthcare more accessible to people with special needs through training, advocacy and the first dental clinic dedicated to providing care to this underserved population. To date, they have trained over 1500 dentists and have opened a clinic in Arizona.

In this episode, we learn the clinic’s roots are from a dentist, Dr. Jacob Dent, who has a son with autism. Dr. Dent began to take his knowledge and creativity as an autism dad to transform his practice into one that could effectively and creatively treat patients with disabilities.

Kyle then shares tips to finding a dentist who can treat our loved one and how we can, as caregivers, come alongside the dentist prior to the visit to set them up for success. 

Mentioned in this Episode:

  • Dr. Jacob Dent is a dentist in the Pacific Dental Services network. He also is the dad of a son with autism. Dr. Dent saw the challenges of dental hygiene for his son and others like him and so he transformed his dental office into space where individuals with special needs could get treatment. This led to a curriculum for teaching and training those in the dental field and a partnership with the Pacific Dental Services Foundation which now includes the disability community as one of their four branches of focus in treating undersized populations. Read more about Dr. Dent and the Special Needs branch of the Pacific Dental Services Foundation here.

  • Dr. Dent and the Pacific Dental Services Foundation created a social story for patients. Download it here.

  • Kyle shares how to find a dentist for our loved one with special needs and what to do before and during the exam to support both the patient and the dentist.

  • The Pacific Dental Services Foundation is a nonprofit. Consider making a donation by clicking here.

Related Episodes:

Episode 78 - Dignity & Hygiene

Episode 79 - Better Medical Visits for Patients with Disabilities