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Dental Care and Treatments for Special Needs Children

August 1, 2019

With myriad medical needs and behaviors to manage, parents of special needs children may put their oral health on the back burner.

While this is certainly understandable, children with disabilities or complex medical conditions are twice as likely to have unmet dental needs than children without special needs. There are many reasons for this. Fine motor delays can prevent some children from performing adequate oral care. Sensory issues can make the simple act of brushing a challenge for other kids. Medical conditions make some kids more susceptible to dental problems. Additionally, visiting a pediatric dental specialist for routine care may be next to impossible for some.

However, it’s vital that parents make oral health visits to a pediatric dentist a priority for their children. Here are some tips to help you set up your child up for a lifetime of good dental health.

Start Early

Find a dentist for children early on. The sooner your child starts going to the dentist on a regular basis, the easier it will be to establish a routine. Find a pediatric dentist that allows your child to take a tour of the office. Bring your child to the office for a walk through, and let him or her examine the spinning toothbrushes and take a ride in the dental chair. Gaining familiarity with the office helps to lessen anxiety for both the child and the parent.

Talk To Your Dentist

You’re the expert on your child’s unique needs, so take time to explain things to your dentist. Dental professionals will be glad to meet with you in advance of your child’s appointment to discuss the best path forward for your child. For instance, according to the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, patients with autism do well when they see the same staff and the same dentist at every appointment. Therefore, build that expectation into your child’s dental treatment plan. By maintaining open lines of communication and clear expectations between parent and dentist, the outcome for your child will be significantly improved.

Ask For Advice

As a pediatric dentistry office in Palm Harbor, Dr. Maggie Davis, and her staff can offer much more than routine cleaning and exam. They can talk to you about your child’s needs. Where does he or she need help? Is he or she struggling in one particular area of oral hygiene? We can point you to tools and products that could help. From floss holders to specialized fluoride rinses, we’re experts in adaptive dental aids for special needs kids.

At Home Care

Good oral care starts at home. If your child won’t let you brush their teeth, start by brushing his or her lips. Work your way up to brushing inside your child’s mouth. If he or she is resistant to a toothbrush, use a soft washcloth to gently wipe away dirt and food particles. Try a water flosser to clean between your child’s teeth if he or she won’t use dental floss. Limit snacks and sugary drinks to prevent decay and damage to the teeth and gums. Encourage your child to drink lots of water to rinse food particles from his or her mouth.

Patience With Your Special Needs Child

Just because your child is resistant to oral care, don’t lose hope! Keep trying, and take baby steps on the path to establishing a good oral routine. Don’t get frustrated and recognize the process may take time. We have tons of excellent resources for improving your child’s oral hygiene, so be sure to ask for help if you need it.

At Dr. Maggie Smith’s pediatric dentistry office, we are accustomed to serving special needs kids and welcome them at our practice. We look forward to talking with you about your child’s unique needs and helping you establish a positive relationship with our dentist. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!

Dental Care for Special Needs Children

March 13, 2019

Children who have special needs often have unique oral health issues. Symptoms of their condition, oral sensitivity, taking certain medications, diet, and difficulty eating can all contribute to dental concerns. Behavioral or medical problems may result in dental care taking a back seat at times. However, children with special needs have a greater risk for oral health problems, so it’s not only essential to ensure you’re practicing good dental hygiene at home with your child, but your child also needs to get routine dental care from a dentist.   

 

Dental Concerns for Children with Special Needs

Many children with special needs have dental problems related to their health condition or the treatments for their condition.

For example, your child’s condition could be affecting:

  • The amount of saliva your child’s mouth makes (Saliva protects teeth and clears away food)
  • How oral structures and teeth grow
  • The way calcium is laid down on the enamel of the teeth as they grow
  • What and how often your child can eat (note: children with G-tubes still are at risk for tartar buildup and cavities)

Some of the most common dental concerns affecting children with special needs include:

  • Teeth grinding – Your child could be grinding his teeth during the teeth or while sleeping, and grinding may damage teeth over time.
  • Holding food in their mouth – Some children hold food in their cheeks or their mouth, a condition known as food pouching. This can make it easier for bacteria to grow and cause cavities.
  • Dry mouth – Medications or your child’s condition could affect saliva production and cause dry mouth. This can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and oral infections.
  • Delay of tooth eruption – Sometimes the teeth take a longer time to come in for children with special needs. This is often seen in children who have Down syndrome.
  • Bad breath – Sinusitis, diabetes, some medications, and digestive problems may all lead to bad breath.

 

Choosing a Dentist Who Offers Special Supports for Special Needs Children

It’s critical that you follow good oral health practices at home with your child, but it’s also essential to make sure your child gets into the dentist for routine checkups and cleanings. Of course, this can come with unique challenges, so you’ll want to find a dentist who offers special supports to accommodate children with special needs. Finding the right dentist for your child requires balancing the dentist’s experience with your child’s needs. Take time to visit or call a dentist to find out if they have worked with other children who have your child’s condition. Talk to the practice about the special supports needed by your child. Some of the special supports to look for include:

  • Accessibility – Find out if the areas both outside and inside the dentist’s office are easily accessible for your special needs child. Does your child use a wheelchair? You’ll need to ensure that there’s a wheelchair ramp to enter the practice and that the wheelchair will easily fit into the exam room.  
  • Pre-Appointments – Ask about pre-appointments. They allow your child to meet with the dentist, visit the exam room, and see the dental equipment. Pre-appointments can help your child feel a lot more comfortable with the office, resulting in better cooperation during the appointment.
  • Previous Experience – Does the dental staff have experience working with children with special needs? Ask about previous experience and strategies they’ve developed to help support special needs children. Experienced dentists will be able to provide you with helpful home care advice that enables you to improve your child’s overall oral health.
  • Available Sedation – Is sedation available? Some children may require mild sedation while others might need general anesthesia. Talk to the dentist to find out what options are available and the sedation options he or she would recommend for your child’s needs.
  • Special Training – Does the dentist have any specialized training for treating children who have special needs? Many pediatric dentists do have specialized training, and that’s a benefit for you and your child.

 

Good dental care is crucial for your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Look for a dentist who can work with you and your child to achieve good oral health. Together you can work with your child’s dentist to prevent potential problems and keep your child’s teeth and gums as healthy as possible so they can live their best life.