Looking after your special needs child’s dental health.March 10, 2020 9:43 am
Looking after children with special needs can provide lots of new challenges, and dealing with dental health is one of them. However, if your child does have special needs then dental health really needs to be a high priority. That’s because your child is more likely to have dental complications as a result of their condition – and it may just be a bit harder to maintain good dental hygiene routines. In any case, it’s really important to get the right professional assistance so your child’s teeth and gums can be kept as healthy as possible.
- Is my child special needs?
Special needs means children that have a disability – it could be physical or mental – that affects their ability to live their life and perform day-to-day tasks. It’s really important that parents and carers are aware of what good dental health looks like, and how to provide that for their special needs child.
- Common dental problems
In addition, there are certain conditions that can cause complications for dental health. Down syndrome is one of them. Children with this condition may have malformed teeth, and tooth roots can be smaller too. This means that teeth are more susceptible to loss as a result of decay and periodontal disease. Other conditions include cleft palate, where the roof of the mouth isn’t properly closed off from the nose, cerebral palsy, where movement and co-ordination is affected, and vision or hearing impediments. In these cases children could have too many teeth, causing crowding and increasing the chances of tooth decay and gum disease, or too few. Some children may also grind their teeth (known as bruxism) which can damage tooth surfaces and lead to enamel cracks and weakening.
Prescribed medicines can also cause problems. Some contain sugar, which when left in contact with tooth surfaces can cause decay, or other ingredients that affect teeth negatively. For example some anticonvulsants containing benzodiazepines, can have a side effect called dry mouth, known formally as xerostomia. This means that the mouth is less able to produce enough saliva to rinse out bad stuff and keep decay at bay.
- Choosing a dentist
With all of these risks to manage, it’s essential to choose a pediatric dentist, and one that is experienced in treating children with special needs. The best pediatric dentist will be able to alter any course of treatment to fit with their patient’s needs, whatever they may be. And, dentists need to pay extra attention to body language – their own and the patient – if the child is non-verbal. All of these skills can be found at a pediatric dentist for special needs children. The Drs. Nicolas & Asp Pediatric Dentistry Center is in Jumeirah, on Jumeirah Beach Road just past Mercato Mall.
It’s recommended that special needs children have regular dental check-ups, at least every six months. Be sure to share all of your child’s dental history so the dentist can offer the best treatment and advice.
- What about sedation?
Sedation dentistry is an option, though the best pediatric dentist for special needs children will work to find a solution that doesn’t include sedation, if possible. That can include adapting their equipment and the room to fit their patient’s needs. With regular check-ups it’s likely that problems can be caught early enough to avoid major procedures. In fact, only a minority of children will need sedation dentistry.
What’s also very important is having good oral hygiene at home. Fluoride treatments can be really useful here in helping prevent tooth decay where brushing may not always be possible to do. The best dentists will offer practical help, such as modifying toothbrushes to something your child (or you) can manage more easily.
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