Dentistry in their Sleep

Dentistry in their Sleep

A vital service for children with special needs finds itself at risk of disappearing.

Here’s a little pop quiz for all the Moms and Dads out there.  Which of these places are your kids least likely to want to visit?

A. The zoo
B. The zoo
C. The zoo
D. The dentist

Sure, it’s a little obvious. The point is, going to see the dentist isn’t on anyone’s list of favorite things.  Least of all your kids.  Or correction: least of all kids for whom most of the world around them is hard to understand, like kids with autism, for example.

Eric Deshazer, DDS

“The sights and sounds of a dental office can, and often do, prove to be too much to handle,” said Eric DeShazer, DDS, GraceMed’s Chief Dental Officer. “So expecting them to approach the whole experience with the necessary patience and cooperation is just unrealistic.”

For patients with conditions like autism that can impair their ability to receive dental care, the use of sedation is nothing less than essential.  GraceMed has been providing this service for many years and is currently the only Federally Qualified Health Center in the state of Kansas that does.

Many children with special needs often have complications that put their oral health more at risk.  For example, physical disabilities like cerebral palsy can make it difficult to control a toothbrush, and intellectual disabilities like Down Syndrome can make learning how to brush your teeth a challenge.  Some children may not have the communication skills to tell parents when their teeth hurt, and others may take medicine on a regular basis that has an added sugar to improve compliance or a side effect of a dry mouth.

There are also a number of oral health conditions that are often experienced in association with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and severe intellectual disabilities.  These conditions can interfere with proper growth and fit of the teeth or contribute to certain oral functions.

Oral health is critical to the overall health and development of all children, but for those who are coping with a disability, these problems can only add to their challenges.  If eating is painful, they don’t get the nutrition they need.  In school, the uphill battle they face just gets that much steeper because their learning experience is disrupted by oral pain.

So being able to provide sedation dentistry to these children can have an important and lasting impact on their health and well-being.  At GraceMed, the administration of anesthesia is a procedure performed by anesthesiologists who come to our Helen Galloway Clinic every Tuesday. Appointments are made with patients all around the state.

Recently a change was made in the way charges for anesthesia are classified.  The change had the effect of cutting the reimbursement rate for anesthesia by at least 50 percent.

“To be clear, this is not an issue affecting the cost of GraceMed’s dental services, just the anesthesia and anesthesiologist,” Dr. Deshazer explained.  “But the reality is that if insurance reimbursement is too little to cover the cost of these services, it puts our ability to give dental care to these children at risk.”

Negotiations are continuing to work out an agreement with the insurance companies involved. “This is an unusual situation that has to be resolved, and we full expect it will be,” Dr. Deshazer added. “We are determined to continue serving these patients.  There’s too much at stake for their health and their future.”

To help offset the costs of sedation dentistry, please consider making a donation.


This content was featured in our State of Grace quarterly news magazine.  If you would like to receive the State of Grace at your home or your inbox, please let us know by completing the form on this page.