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!