Dental Care for People with Disabilities

Some people with disabilities like cerebral palsy don’t have the strength or skill to care for their teeth properly, and that neglect can lead to bigger problems. In 1989, Beit Issie Shapiro opened the Naomi and Shimon Ditkovsky Dental Clinic, Israel’s first non-hospital dental facility catering specifically to patients like these and children with developmental conditions like autism, for whom dental procedures may be particularly stressful. It introduced a form of therapy called Snoezelen that includes soothing music, soft lighting, pictures projected on the ceiling, bubble-filled tubes and a comforting weighted vest to “hug” the patient. It proved so effective in reducing anxiety and the overall experience that researchers at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are conducting a pilot study of the method in the hopes of implementing the program here as well.