Getting good dental care for children with disabilities can be difficult.
An event held at the University of Saskatchewan is intended to play a small part in changing that.
“This population has a very hard time finding good care,” said Richard Andrews, a second-year U of S dentistry student.
Andrews and others organized Sharing Smiles Day on Saturday. Special needs patients and their families played basketball, got their faces painted and did other activities with dentistry students. They also learned proper tooth brushing and other hygiene tips.
Andrews, who is part of the group Oral Health, Total Health, said he became interested in special needs dentistry while job shadowing in Toronto.
He said physically and intellectually challenged patients often have other medical needs that are seen as more urgent. Dental care is often neglected.
These patients can often be more difficult to treat because of those conditions.
Dentists, for their part, can be hesitant to treat special needs patients, he said. Some don’t want the added difficulty, and some lack the confidence.
“There’s no reason for that. There’s no special equipment needed, no special education,” he said.
That’s why the event Saturday was just as important for the dental students as their patients.
“It’s all about breaking down those barriers,” Andrews said.
Lauren Hampton, a participant at the event, said she had a lot of fun Saturday and made some new friends. She said she’s aware of the importance of good dental care.
“Nobody wants to get cavities or gingivitis,” she said.