Importance of oral hygiene for Special needs children
Special needs children have a higher risk of developing oral problems such as gum disease and cavities.Their dental health is closely linked to their overall health and it is important to prevent and treat any issues that might arise. Children with special needs are at an increased risk of dental problems because:
- Certain medicines, especially those taken for chronic conditions, can cause dryness of mouth or overgrowth of gum tissues. Flavored medications contain sugar, which is again not good for oral health.
- Muscle issues and other physical limitations can make it difficult to brush, floss and even sitting in a dentist’s chair for an exam.
- High carbohydrate diets can cause the starch to sit on the teeth for too long and result in tooth decay.
- Dental health often takes a backseat as parents may be too occupied with other doctors’ appointments.
- Sensory or oral defensiveness might make brushing teeth an unpleasant experience for some special needs children.
- Genetic disorders, like Down syndrome, can cause teeth to erupt later than usual, or lead to extra, missing or misaligned teeth. These can eventually result in gum disease, uneven wear and tooth decay.
- An impaired immune system can make some children more susceptible to oral diseases
- Some children with special needs are prone to grinding their teeth, which can wear down the enamel.
- Kids with attention difficulties and sensory issues might find brushing their teeth and flossing to be extremely boring.
All these factors can cause poor oral hygiene and other dental problems in children with special needs. Parents can minimize these issues by taking small steps which include:
- Visit a pediatric dentist who is experienced in treating children with special needs. A specialist in pediatric dentistry is trained in behavioral techniques and can make treatment more comfortable for the kids.
- Play pretend or read books with your kids to prepare them for dental check-ups and practice oral hygiene.
- While visiting the dentist’s office, take your child’s favorite book or toy to ease anxiety.
- Before scheduling any procedures, try to visit the dentist a few time to help the child become familiar with the environment.
- Focus more on prevention, rather than treatment. Talk to the dentist about ways to prevent tooth decay and gum problems. Discuss about the medications that can potentially cause oral side effects and habits like teeth grinding.
- At home, brush your child’s teeth twice a day to keep their mouth healthy. Try different tactics with special needs children to ensure they enjoy brushing and flossing.
- Brush together and let them see how you do it. This can help them learn the proper technique.
- Create a routine – brush in the same place, at the same time every day to encourage familiarity and making it a habit.
- Children with sensory issues can be encouraged to use vibrating toothbrushes for brushing their teeth.
- Limit your child’s sugar and starch intake. If they need to eat a carbohydrate-rich diet, have them brush after meals.
You can also ask your dentist to help build a customized plan to suit your child’s special needs. Caring for teeth is crucial for the overall health of children.