If you have a child with special needs, you already know that something as simple as teeth brushing and or flossing isn’t that simple. Do you dread taking your special needs child to the dentist? There are a number of factors that make oral care more difficult in special needs children. Studies indicate that cavities and other dental problems are more typical in special needs children.

Many special needs children have malformed teeth making brushing difficult. If your child is unable to effectively brush for themselves, oral health care may always be the job of the parent or caregiver. Oral trauma is quite common with special needs children, especially children who have uncontrollable movements. There are common medications for special needs children that cause swollen gums because of the high sugar content in the medication, making them more likely to develop gingivitis. Children with feeding tubes are also susceptible to gingivitis and periodontal disease. If you have a child with special needs, here are a handful of tips and tricks to help with home oral healthcare and trips to the dentist.

Think of fun and helpful ways to make brushing and flossing easy. When it comes to brushing, the earlier the better, so begin brushing at an early age and make it fun. It’s a good idea to brush when your child is in a cooperative mood. Encouraging your child to brush themselves gives them a sense of independence. Let them start the job, then you can finish. Fasten a toothbrush to a thick handled object to make to the toothbrush easier to hold. Try using a Waterpic rather than dental floss to handle the job of flossing. Some research shows that brushing to music is a fun and helpful distraction.

Take the time to find an experienced pediatric dentist who is patient and used to treating children with special needs. It’s important to find a dentist who can make your child feel comfortable, someone who is compassionate and understands the complexities of caring for special needs children. Not all dentists are equipped to care for your child and a reputable dentist will recommend a practice that will be better suited to help if they are unable.

Ask about certain dental treatments like xylitol wipes, antimicrobial rinses or custom trays with peroxide gel. These treatments have been proven effective for helping to prevent cavities. The wipes are especially handy to wipe your child’s mouth clean if they have to take medicine at night after they have already brushed.

When you go to the dentist call ahead to make sure they are running on time, have forms already filled out and bring something that comforts your child like a favorite toy, blanket or object. Your dentist should be told in advance of your child’s limitations and condition. Having everything ready including a copy of your insurance card will make checking in simple and hassle free.

You can “practice going to the dentist” at home by making it a fun game. Talk to your child about the dentist, what they can expect and what will happen so they are aware of what to expect. You can have your child sit in your lap and lean back while they open their mouth and look in a hand held mirror. Let them practice sitting back and opening their mouth while brushing their teeth. Use words and phrases that a dentist may use so your child is more comfortable. We hope these tips help ease the difficulty of helping your child maintain happy, health teeth and gums.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Michael Juban, Juban Dental Care

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