A Trip to The Dentist with SMA
Last updated: March 2022
I don’t think there’s anyone that actually enjoys going to the dentist. Now, mix in the fact that this could be quite a unique situation or a difficult one if you are a wheelchair user.
I find that most dentist offices are not fully prepared to host me and my big bulky electric wheelchair, however, I have noticed that they all are willing to accommodate to the best of their ability.
My advice for going to the dentist with SMA
I know everyone’s wheelchair situation and transfer situation is different, but I would love to share my experience and advice on visiting a dentist. As I mentioned before, I don’t think anyone truly enjoys going to the dentist.
However, I genuinely enjoy getting my teeth cleaned and making sure everything in my mouth is as good as it possibly could be. So, going to a dentist was a regular, every six months, occurrence for us in our household.
Staying in my own chair for the appointment
I currently drive a Permobil with many adjustable features. Some of my favorites are the recline and elevation features. When I was younger, I would often get out of my wheelchair and sit in the dentist's chair that reclines and they would make it as comfortable as possible for me.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I enjoy being in my own chair that I have control over positioning. If this is a new dentist's office, I call ahead and let them know that I am in a wheelchair, request a little extra time for any cleanings or exams, and make them aware that I will most likely be staying in my chair.
I usually recline and elevate to the preference of the dental hygienist or dentist once I'm in the room. They’re usually pretty amazed that my chair can do all the things it can do. I let them know that it’s most comfortable for me and I prefer to stay in my chair.
Requesting breaks for my jaw
The next hurdle is my jaw. With the jaw issues for most SMA people I let them know that my jaw will get fatigued quickly and I will need to take breaks often. They have used jaw supporters that help keep my mouth open but I don’t find that those are very helpful.
Like I said, taking breaks and sitting up often helps relax my jaw. A few times, getting x-rays has been difficult because their machines are usually in a very small room.
We do our best and sometimes have to opt-out of not getting every single x-ray. But I have found that the dentist can usually get what they need to give me appropriate care.
Don’t be afraid to go to the dentist. Just be willing to express what your needs are. Call ahead, communicate your needs to the people that work there, relax and enjoy getting your teeth cleaned.
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