Developing A Welcome Experience For Patients With Sensory Impairment

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By Lucy Wyndham

The dentist’s office can be an overwhelming place even for those without any pre-existing conditions; for people who can be adversely affected by overstimulation of the senses, that challenge is magnified. Sensory over-responsivity is a common symptom for both adults and children diagnosed with developmental disorders, of which there are over 6 million in the USA according to Disability Justice. The ideal dentist’s office will be relaxing to cater for patients from all backgrounds, but going the extra mile to help those diagnosed with sensory over-responsivity will help you to go that extra mile for your community.

Balancing input – comfort

One of the key ways to help children and adults prone to overstimulation feel relaxed is through balancing the senses. No one sense should be overloaded, according to Child Mind, and that starts with the physical environment. Prioritize soft and neutral furnishings and decorations that give off an aura of calm. Seating in your waiting room should be spaced enough to allow patients to have room, yet with enough close seating for family to stay and provide support and comfort. The high back sofa is an excellent way to achieve this as they provide enough communal space for family while also providing a comforting, welcoming environment.

Senior man with hearing aid indoors

Minimizing noise

No visitor to the dentist’s office wants to hear the procedures going on in the clinic itself. Nowadays, many offices are well insulated in terms of sound to prevent this. This is especially important when it comes to people with sensory over-responsivity. You can also enhance your dentist’s office environment via the ambiance it provides. Your environment should be neutral in terms of the ambient noise, and, ideally, will use music. Research has shown that music therapy can help such individuals; bring that into your workplace by using sensitive, neutral noises that can provide a distraction and create ambiance without causing sensory overload.

Visual calm

When it comes to the dentist’s office, you’ll be considering two main senses – sight, and sound. The key in your visual approach will concern avoiding excessive stimulation. That means avoiding bright lights, sudden changes in colour or saturation, and using plain colour schemes. Once again, many of these factors are at home in the dentist’s surgery, but there are steps you can take to go that little bit further. For some people diagnosed with sensory over-responsivity, shapes can have an impact, too. It’s actually quite straightforward to create shapes and a sense of direction that are distressing in the dentist’s office, through the use of items like placards and cubicle walls. Make sure that you keep things open, calm, and straightforward, to avoid creating anxiety.

These elements will help those diagnosed with conditions that impact their ability to process sensory input. This can make their experience at the dentist, which could already be fraught with anxiety, easier. That’s a better experience for your clients, and a benefit to your business.


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