Dental health Care for Children with Special Needs!
Dental care for children with special needs can be challenging for parents and health care professionals alike. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
This topic is one of the closest topics to my heart, let me tell you why.
The definition of a special smile: any additional care or consideration that a specialist pediatric dentist needs to keep in mind to cater to a child. Whether the consideration is physical, psychological, developmental, emotional, sensory or any condition at all causing limitation; this truly deserves special attention on a whole new level.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) may develop more oral problems in relation to their peers. Therefore, special considerations to make sure optimum potential for every child is reached despite the disability.
To avoid all this: We should absolutely care for our child’s teeth before they get any problems!
Why, you ask?
The answer is simple: The child’s entire life and how he/ she lives their life is affected!
Oral problems can lead to a direct impact on a child’s life! Deteriorating every aspect in a child’s daily routine, from sleep to even social play and learning! The saddest news is something as simple as tooth decay can lead to a longer lasting foot print in a child’s life.
If you ask me, this child in particular has a lot on his/her plate, and the last thing we want is one more thing the child has to suffer through without knowing.
Here are 5 of the most asked questions by parents about the Dental Care of Special Needs Children:
Do special need children have special dental needs?
While most children are prone to decay and gum disease! a child with a special health care need has an even higher risk of tooth decay! gum disease! oral trauma! dental erosion! bruxism! bite problems and more!
Unfortunately! research shows that the majority of children with special needs have a huge burden of unmet dental care needs- means they experience more decay and more gum disease that does not get treated! The reason?
Who can care for my special need child- which dentist do I go to?
Pediatric dentists are the most experienced dentists in the filed of children with special needs. They have at least 3 years of extra training and certifications to manage children and specifically children with special needs. Most pediatric dentistry offices are oriented towards children and are very accessible.
I integrated into my office many sensory features that can help children feel at home really quick.
How to prevent dental problems for my special need child?
I just spoke about dental problems being common! Forgot to add the good news though.
The best news is: dental problems are completely preventable!
To prevent dental problems, it is absolutely necessary to do those regular dental visits for your child and establish a “dental home” early on to instill all the preventive habits from an early age.
Actually the American academy advices that your child’s first dental visit be by the first birthday. This sets the scene to a lifetime of healthy teeth, healthy gums and definitely super smiles!
Your specialist dentist also studies the child’s risk for such problems and advices a preventative plan accordingly.
Really? Can preventive dentistry help my special needs child?
Of course! Your child will benefit massively from the individualized preventive plan tailored for your child for home care and at the office. Your expert dentist will be helping you implement this plan at home with all the advice you need to help your child.
Also professionally, the dentist will be advising of regular cleanings and fluoride treatment according to the child’s need.
How will my child sit on the chair?
Children with special needs need more support than a gentle, caring way to feel comfortable during dental treatment. For a positive experience, it is always great to educate and train them before the appointment day. During the appointments, we use positive reinforces or rewards after each step. Each kid needs to work at his/her own pace to achieve the skills necessary for a happy dental visit.
Sedation or hospital dentistry may benefit your special kid if treatment was not possible on the chair. As a specialist pediatric dentist, I received comprehensive education in behavior management, sedation and anesthesia techniques. Therefore, the technique will be chosen based on the specific health needs of your child, and then discuss the benefits and risks of that technique with you.
Prevention and Brushing
What do parents need to know to ensure healthy teeth for children with special needs?
Dental health care for your special need kid focuses on improving resistance to tooth decay, reducing the bacteria in the mouth, having a balanced diet, and seeing an expert dentist for children regularly.
Daily oral care
Your special needs child maybe can’t manage his/her daily oral care, so he/ she need assistance from you. It is not an easy job, especially if your child resists your help. It may be necessary that more than one person can help with daily oral cleaning.
Children with special needs may find toothbrushing a challenge. There are many ways to make toothbrushing easier for them. You can use an electric toothbrush. The head of the brush works much more quickly than a manual toothbrush. It can clean teeth better than a manual toothbrush. Also their favorite manual brush can be modified that they can handle it in a way that they like better.
You can make a bulky handle on a normal toothbrush to make toothbrusing easier. Try to fill a small ball or bicycle group with plaster or plastic material, inserting a toothbrush before the plaster or plastic sets. The head size of the brush should be small or medium.
Tooth rests and mouth props
Special children may resist mouth cleaning by biting on the toothbrush. Especially if a child has a sensory aversion, this is quiet typical behavior on their part. To protect your child as well as you, use a tooth rest or mouth prop. You can wrap five wooden tongue depressors together with adhesive tape, and use it to keep your child’s mouth open during mouth cleaning. You can also use a second toothbrush with a bulky handle and encourage the child close their teeth on the handle of one toothbrush while you bursh the teeth with the other toothbrush on the other side. Brilliant no!
Regular dental visits
It is very important for special needs children to see their dentists on a regular basis. I do understand that Children with special medical needs have endless appointments with may specialists. The last thing we want is their oral health to drop to the bottom of the list! Oral health is as important as general or medical health.
The most difficult part of this entire trip to the dentist, is finding the right pediatric dentist that can do the job. Special Care Dentistry needs extra training, extra knowledge, increased awareness, fine attention and a whole load of expertise in the care of children’s oral health beyond the routine work of pediatric dentistry.
When you are calling ahead of time to schedule the appointment; always share with your dentist your child’s medical condition, medications if any, your child’s special needs so the dentist is fully aware of them. I usually schedule the child for a prolonged appointment time to be able to accommodate the patients and give them enough attention.
Special needs parents deal with multiple, significant health needs in their childhood. However, there is an opportunity for children with special needs to receive good dental health care. Work closely with your child’s dentist to put a prevention plan, so that many potential dental problems can be avoided entirely.