Did you know that children with special needs may require additional dental care? Depending on the child’s specific needs, they may require more frequent cleanings, X-rays, and even sealants or braces. If your child is one of these children, be sure to talk to their Pediatric Dentist about the best way to care for their teeth and gums.
There are many children with special needs such as physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. Depending on the child’s specific disability, they may require different types of dental care than a child without special needs. Here are some tips to make dental treatment easier for these kids.
What dental problems are common in children with special needs?
Some disabilities make it difficult for children to communicate with their dentists. These children may be scared, confused, or unable to understand what is going on during a dental exam or cleanings. Children with mental and developmental disabilities are more likely to have cavities than those without disabilities because of their difficulty in maintaining good oral hygiene practices.
Children with physical disabilities may have trouble seeing, speaking, or using their hands. They may not be able to open their mouths wide enough for the dentist to see inside, and they may need help during dental exams and cleanings. According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), “Children with cerebral palsy who cannot communicate verbally can benefit from the use of dental treatment chairs that have a bite block or mouth prop to facilitate intra-oral instrumentation.”Children with this disability may also require oral sedatives to be more comfortable during treatment.
How can you prepare your child for dental treatment?
One of the most important factors in a child’s treatment is how much they know about what will happen in a dentist’s office. The way a child feels going into a dental visit has a lot to do with their experience during the visit, so helping them feel at ease before going can be crucial.
Here are some tips for preparing your child for dental treatment:
Explain exactly what will happen in the dentist’s office. Don’t skip over procedures or use complex medical words that your child may not understand. Be prepared to answer questions, and don’t rush through any explanations you give. If you make it sound too complicated or frightening, your child may feel worried before even entering the office.
Describe the office and any tools your child will see at the Pediatric Dentist. Make sure they know that everything in the dentist’s office is safe to use, and don’t leave out details about what procedures will be performed. If possible, bring pictures of a dental chair or tools so they can familiarize themselves before their appointment, or use a fun app on your phone to show them the dentist’s office.
Explain why you need to go to the Pediatric Dentist. If your child doesn’t understand what teeth are for, they may feel nervous about visiting the Pediatric Dentist. It is important that children know why they need dental care, so explain it in simple terms if necessary. You can even remind them of previous trips to the Pediatric Dentist, or any fun things you have done together while seeing a pediatrician.
Talk about your child’s Pediatric Dentist if they are old enough to talk. It may help boost their confidence in visiting the dentist by being able to mention their name and what they do at the office.
What to expect during a dental appointment?
Bonding with a child before going into the dentist’s office is important, but you’ll need to know what procedures will be performed as well. Talk to your pediatrician about which treatments are crucial for your child’s dental health, and come up with a treatment plan that works for both of you.
Make sure they know what could happen during the visit, and how it will feel. Get down to your child’s level so they can understand what is going on as best as possible. If you know the Pediatric Dentist personally, ask them for advice on how to explain certain procedures so that your child isn’t surprised or scared when they do see a dentist.
Explaining to your child that they are in charge can help ease their worries. If you have a younger child, emphasize that the dentist is treating them because it’s their job to take care of teeth. They also need to be able to communicate any issues or problems if they arise during the appointment, and explain why procedures like x-rays and cleanings cant wait.
How can you make oral hygiene easier for your child at home?
Start oral hygiene early.
You can begin brushing your child’s teeth even before they have all of them. Most children are born with their first tooth, but others may not appear until later on. If you are applying fluoride toothpaste to the gums or tongue, make sure it is safe for infants or young babies.
Make it fun by letting them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste.
Give your child a role in their treatment. If they feel like you are asking them to brush their teeth because it’s the right thing to do, they might not be so eager during dental visits. However, if you let them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste flavors, or even decorate their own toothbrush, it can make oral hygiene more exciting.
Establish a routine.
If you can, try to brush your child’s teeth at the same time every day. This will help them learn how long to brush for, and when they need to be done. You can even set up a reward system or sticker chart that gives them a treat after brushing their teeth for a certain amount of time each day.
Help them floss properly.
Even after you have brushed all of your child’s teeth, there are still areas that may be hard to reach. This is where flossing comes in handy! If they are too young to hold the floss themselves, you can tie it around their finger or provide an appropriate-sized piece for them to use.
Check their teeth for signs of cavities or other problems.
During regular dental visits, your child’s Pediatric Dentist will be able to check for cavities or other problems that could arise. However, it is just as important to ensure they are brushing their teeth correctly at home. Look for signs of enamel erosion, which can start small but become bigger over time if untreated. You should also watch out for teeth discoloration, tooth sensitivity, or signs of gum disease.
Reward them for good oral hygiene habits.
Help your child stay motivated by creating a reward system. If they are brushing their teeth, let them choose stickers for the reward chart. When they have filled the entire chart, they can have ice cream or popcorn after dinner that night. You can also tie rewards into how long they brushed each day- something small if they brushed for just one minute, something larger if they brushed for the full two minutes the dentist recommends.
Resources for parents of children with special needs.
You don’t have to face oral health challenges all alone. There are resources available to help guide you through the complicated world of dental treatment for children with special needs. You can also find information about financial assistance or other programs for lower income families.
For more information on dental treatment for children with special needs, or to find out about programs and services available in your area, contact us today!