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"How prepared are YOU as a RDH to treat clients with exceptional needs?!" by Nadine Russell, RDH

I was discussing my “Clients with Exceptional Needs” presentation with some colleagues, when a fellow RDH had commented that her practice "just refers” all individuals with special needs for sedation.

Well, anyone who knows me or has attended any of my presentations KNOW that I am just a little passionate about this! So this makes me wonder…how prepared are YOU as a RDH to treat clients with exceptional needs?!

One of the very first topics I discuss in my presentations is that as Registered Dental Hygienists AND Regulated Health Professionals it is our OBLIGATION to know how to treat ALL clients…that includes those with exceptional needs.  It is the expectation of our College and of the public that as frontline oral health care providers that we have an understanding of and the ability to adapt our skills to serve this population. We are not auxiliaries; we cannot look to the dentist that employ us for guidance…it is our responsibility!!!

Here are some key points that I have highlighted in our Standards of Practice as outlined by the CDHO to support my statements:

“… dental hygienists have a social responsibility to promote access to, and delivery of, quality dental hygiene services”

“A dental hygienist demonstrates a commitment to professional responsibility by:

  • Using a client-centered approach that acts or advocates in the client’s best interest.
  • Contributing to actions that will support change and facilitate access to care; particularly in vulnerable populations.
  • Recognizing gaps in knowledge and taking the appropriate steps to acquire this knowledge.”   http://www.cdho.org/Standards+of+Practice.asp

All individuals are entitled the best possible care we can provide them…working with individuals with special needs is no different.  Some adaption to our “typical” routines can make this possible…that’s what client centered- care is. Assessing and recognizing the needs of our clients to be able to effectively provide them care.

The best way to better serve these clients is by arming yourself with knowledge!

As outlined in the CDHO Code of Ethics “PROFESSIONALISM- Is the commitment to use and advance professional knowledge and skills to serve the client and the public good.” http://www.cdho.org/Code+of+Ethics.asp

Being aware of our limitations and knowing when to refer is important, however; as professionals it is ESSENTIAL that we recognize when we lack the knowledge and then do something about it!


Yours In Health,


Nadine Russell, RDH