Every child needs routine dental care, but children with special needs have a higher risk of gum disease, oral trauma, and tooth decay. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, special health care needs includes any type of emotional, sensory, physical, behavioral, mental, cognitive, or developmental limiting condition or impairment that requires specialized services, medical management, and/or healthcare intervention. Whether your child has a condition that is developmental, congenital, or a result of a disease, great dental care is crucial to your child’s overall health.

Oral Health Challenges for Children with Special Needs

Many children who have special needs have a lot of sensitivity around their oral cavity. Working with a great pediatric dentist can often help parents get through oral structure changes and feeding problems, preparing parents and children for the developmental changes coming in the future. Other children with special needs often have a tough time opening their mouth completely due to problems with jaw development. This may make it difficult for them to floss and brush regularly, making them more likely to develop gum disease and cavities. Children who deal with sensory challenges are often averse to the sensation and texture of a toothbrush and toothpaste in their mouth. Others have a very limited diet that’s high in sugars, which may result in cavities and other problems with oral development.

Because of these challenges, it’s so important for parents to find a pediatric dentist that is skilled in working with children with special needs. A great pediatric dentist will become a therapeutic partner, so finding a dentist that listens and offers helpful resources is important to the long-term health of children with special needs challenges. Luckily for parents in Palm Harbor, Dr. Maggie Davis is experienced in working with children with special needs and can’t wait to meet your lovely child. 

Helping Special Needs Children Acclimate to the Dentist

Any child may have a difficult time acclimating to the dentist at first, and this can be even more of a problem for special needs children. Working with a pediatric dentist enables your family to create a program that caters to your child’s specific emotional, mental, and physical needs to acclimate them to the experience of visiting the dental office.

In many cases, it’s helpful to start out with a special playtime visit for your children so they can come in to the office and get used to the atmosphere. Our office offers a playroom with toys, magazines, and books and is very helpful for children to become comfortable in the office setting. Kids and their families can stay and play and parents are welcome to try these playtime visits multiple times to work on getting kids comfortable.

Next, an actual room visit may be a great step. Kids can start playing and then transition into one of the office rooms. Consider asking Dr. Maggie’s office staff if it is OK to bring a special toy to make this transition a smooth one. You, your child, and your dentist can talk about oral health and how to take care of their teeth.

The next step may be to have your child come in again and experience sitting in one of the dental chairs. Dental assistants can explain different instruments in the room. If children are okay with it, then the visit can go on to have a short exam and a cleaning. However, a great pediatric dentist works to follow the child’s cues. If the appointment becomes more than your child can handle, we can stop and another visit can be scheduled.

Sedation Dentistry is an Option

For children with special needs that have sensory challenges or high anxiety, sedation dentistry, or sleep dentistry, can be an excellent option. It can offer the best experience for you and your child, ensuring that your child receives the dental care needed for optimal well-being and overall health. Talk to your pediatric dentist about sedation dentistry and whether it’s a good fit for your child.

Although visiting the dentist can come with special challenges, routine dental care is so essential for children with special needs. Your child has a higher risk of many oral health problems if he has special needs, and a pediatric dentist can work with you and your child to prevent these problems before they happen. We love seeing all children grow up with healthy smiles if you have questions or concerns about your child’s needs and the dental care they receive, call and talk to Dr. Maggie today!