Accommodating Patients with Visual Impairment

Dentists who ensure that their patients with visual impairments are appropriately accommodated and adequately informed can substantially improve these patients' ability to understand treatment options, make treatment decisions, prepare for procedures, and reduce anxiety.

  • Upon approaching the patient, the dentist can lightly touch the patient's shoulder and address him or her by name to alert the patient to the dentist's presence.
  • The dentist can ask the patient how he or she would prefer to receive information about procedures. Often, verbal descriptions of procedures are practical ways of preparing the patient so that he or she knows what to expect. For example, a dentist could describe the dental mirror, including size and purpose, before inserting it into the patient's mouth. A patient who prefers or requires tactile information may need to touch the object or tool. Periodically pausing to ask the patient if he or she has any questions or concerns is an additional strategy to ensure that the patient understands the procedure and is relatively comfortable.
  • When addressing questions or statements to the patient, use his or her name, so that the patient is clear that you are speaking to him or her and not to an assistant, dental hygienist, or someone else.
  • Try to minimize background noise, such as music and street noise, as much as possible, so that the patient can hear the instructions, statements, and questions clearly.
  • Before leaving the operatory, tell the patient that you are leaving, and give him or her an opportunity to ask any additional questions. Ensure that any post-procedure literature will be available in an accessible format, such as large-print or Braille. Simply emailing instructions may be a good option for some individuals with visual impairment who may have either text to speech or Braille technology on their home computer.


Lawton, L. (2002). Providing dental care for special patients: Tips for the general dentist. Journal of the American Dental Association, 133, 1666-1670.

City of San Antonia Disability Access Office. Disability Handbook. Retrieved on January 18, 2006 from http://www.sanantonio.gov/planning/disability_handbook/deh1.asp?res=1024&ver=tru