Choosing A Dentist For The Hearing Impaired: 5 Accommodations To Insist Upon

If you or a loved one are hearing impaired, you may realize how difficult it is to communicate effectively when having dental procedures performed. Going to the dentist may be stressful enough, but when communication is impaired, it can be all the more challenging. When choosing a dentist, look for those who use technology such as the intraoral camera and speech-to-text converters. The following accommodations may signify a deaf-friendly practice:

1. The Dentist Removes His or Her Mask When Communicating With the Hearing-Impaired Patient

Many hearing-impaired individuals are skilled lip-readers. Deaf-friendly dentists and dental assistants will recognize the need to remove masks when communicating with a patient who is deaf or hard of hearing. He or she will face the patient, make eye contact and speak slowly and clearly, allowing the patient to lip-read.

2. American Sign Language (ASL) Basics Are Used in the Practice

When searching for an accommodating dentist, look for one that is familiar with at least some basic ASL. While some dentists, hygienists and dental assistants know at least a few basic signs, some are more proficient than others. If you don't feel comfortable with a dentist that doesn't sign very well, look for another.

3. Drilling May Be Replaced With Other Methods

If you are affected by the unpleasant vibrations of a dentist's drill, as commonly experienced by the deaf, you'll want to find a dentist that is sensitive to your needs. Inform your dentist that drilling vibrations are uncomfortable for you, as many dentists now use alternate methods to drilling. You might choose a dentist that practices the following methods in place of drilling:

  • Air Abrasion: This method is becoming a common alternative to drilling. Air abrasion is often performed on patients with tooth decay. Your dentist will use a specialized dental instrument or tool that blasts away tooth decay. Through the use of compressed air, the dentist may use a mixture of baking soda and silica to create a stream that sandblasts away the tooth decay. When air abrasion is performed, the patient may require the use of eye wear to protect the eyes from the mist of particles.

  • Dental Laser: Laser dentistry utilizes a strong light beam, and this energy will cut, remove or reshape oral tissue. Lasers may be used to perform fillings, treat tooth decay or gum disease and even apply teeth whitening procedures. Although it may be more costly than the traditional method of drilling, it is preferable for the hearing-impaired, as it minimizes the risk of uncomfortable vibrations often felt with the use of a drill.

4. The Dentist Uses Speech-to-Text Voice Recognition

A speech-to-text converter is a handy tool to use in dentistry, as it provides accommodations for the hearing impaired. This computerized program will require an overhead monitor set up in front of the dentist chair. When the dentist speaks, his or her speech is converted to text on the screen. It's especially useful for dentists with limited sign language skills. When choosing a deaf-friendly dentist, ask if the practice utilizes speech to text in the examining room.

5. Visual Aids Such as an Intraoral Camera Will Be Utilized

Sometimes it is difficult for a deaf patient to understand the complexities of dental procedures by mere words alone. A dental practice that utilizes visual aids such as intraoral cameras may be of great assistance. An intraoral camera is a small digital device that resembles a wand, and it captures imagery of a patient's teeth, gums and oral cavities. These magnified images may then be displayed on a screen for the patient and dentist to view. Inquire whether your new dentist uses intraoral cameras as a visual aid.

Many deaf-friendly dentists and oral surgeons exist, you simply need to do some research. To find a qualified dentist who knows ASL or utilizes deaf-friendly methods of treatment, ask for a referral from your hearing-impaired friends. To lead you in the right direction, you also might want to contact your local dental association.