Did you know that research suggests that children with special needs are more likely to have unmet dental needs than other children? Dental problems are unique to (or more common for) children with special needs, and not all parents (or even dentists) know how to handle them.
You want your child to grow up with a clean and healthy smile, and we're here to help you. Read on to learn about several common dental problems for special needs patients, as well as tips for taking great care of your child's teeth.
What Are the Most Common Dental Problems for Special Needs Patients?
You may not think your child with special needs would also have unique dental concerns, but this is, in fact, the case. Depending on the condition that your child has, there are a variety of unique dental problems that may affect them.
Certain conditions are more likely to result in malocclusion, for example. Malocclusion means misaligned teeth, and while many people have oral malocclusion, it's more common among people with disabilities.
In and of itself, malocclusion won't always be a problem. It can lead to difficulty eating, a higher chance of cavities, and gum disease.
Many children with developmental disabilities have damaging oral habits. These include tongue thrusting, teeth grinding, and mouth breathing. These habits can lead to tooth damage and decay.
Dental patients with special needs are more likely to develop cavities and gum disease without damaging oral habits or malocclusion.
Identifying Common Warning Signs
So how do you know if your child has an oral health concern?
Children are often good at hiding pain and discomfort if they know that it will save them a trip to the dentist, and children with special needs are no exception. Your job as a parent is to identify potential issues so you can get them taken care of as soon as possible.
Pay attention to your child's eating habits. If they're avoiding hard, sticky, or cold foods, it could be a sign that they're experiencing pain or sensitivity due to a cavity or cracked tooth.
While you help your child brush their teeth, look for any signs of bleeding. This is a sign of gum disease.
Dental Care Tips
So how can you prevent some of these problems? Here are a few quick tips for at-home and in-office dental care patients with special needs.
Encourage and Model Good Brushing Habits
Children copy their parents. Ensure that you're modelling good brushing habits and encouraging your child to follow suit.
Even if you go to bed much later than your child, brush your teeth around their bedtime to help them get used to the routine. Show them how to brush for a full two minutes. Tip: There are fun apps for children that turn brushing teeth into a game.
Praise your child for their good brushing habits. Be consistent.
Pick the Right Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Children with special needs struggle with sensory problems. Pick a toothbrush that isn't too overstimulating. Some children prefer rough bristles, while others prefer soft ones.
Pick a toothpaste that your child doesn't mind the taste of. An unpleasant taste could make your child averse to brushing their teeth.
Pick the Right Dentist
Make sure you find a dentist specializing in oral health for children with disabilities. These dentists have plenty of experience helping children maintain clean and healthy smiles!
Choose a dentist that offers helpful services such as sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry makes dental visits far less stressful for special needs patients.
Help Your Child With Special Needs Maintain Great Oral Health
Patients with special needs are more prone to certain dental problems, but with enough diligence, your child can have a happy and healthy smile.
At Forest Lawn Dental Centre, our team is ready and willing to help patients with or without special needs keep their smiles healthy and clean. Schedule an appointment with us today.