Dental Hygiene students learn treating special needs patients

Senior students in the Dental Hygiene program at Youngstown State University will get experience treating patients with special needs when students from the Rich Center for Autism visit the YSU Dental Clinic in Cushwa Hall Nov. 14.

Fifteen children from the Rich Center, ranging in age from 4 to 15 years old, will get free exams, cleanings and fluoride varnish from two dozen Dental Hygiene majors.

The exams are part of a course that focuses on preparing YSU students to treat and manage patients who have special needs, such as autism spectrum disorder, said Ruth Palich, assistant professor and clinical coordinator of Dental Hygiene at YSU.

In preparation for the visit by the Rich Center students, Paul Filipowicz, the nurse at the Rich Center, was a guest speaker in the YSU class, providing information on patient management strategies for treating young children with autism. In addition, children from the Rich Center visited the clinic, checking out the dental chairs, lights and other features of the clinic, Palich said. Each child also was given exam gloves, a mask, and a disposable mirror. Dental Hygiene students will also visit the children at the Rich Center prior to their visit.

In addition, Filipowicz said he sent picture exchange communication cards home with each of the Rich Center students. The PEC cards show common items that are used in the dental setting, he said. Parents can use the cards at home and go over the common items with their children prior to the clinic visit.