Children with disabilities are more likely to develop dental issues when compared to their typically developing peers. There are several disabilities that increase the complexity of dental problems as well. Oral health is more important than people realize, taking care of our children’s teeth is a focus of our care that we should be providing.
Dental Health and Overall Health
Your mouth is an entryway to the digestive and respiratory tracts of the body. When we practice good oral health, such as brushing twice a day and daily flossing, we keep bacteria in our mouths under control.
There are several conditions that can worsen when we practice improper oral health, such as, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, endocarditis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and osteoporosis.
Dental Issues with Children with Disabilities
Oftentimes children with disabilities have other medical problems which can cause their dental health to take a back seat. However, overall good oral health is essential for overall health.
Cleft lip/palate, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision impairment and other physical and/or intellectual disabilities are common disabilities that generally require more specialized dental health care.
What can I do at Home for my Child’s Oral Health?
Normally dentists or other doctors would tell you to simply brush twice a day, floss daily, avoiding sugary treats and drinks to help your child’s overall dental health. However, whenever you have a child with a disability it is not that simple.
Sometimes sugary and starchy foods are the only thing your child might eat! One suggestion is that after your child does eat something sugary or starchy, have them drink water or rinse their mouth out to avoid letting the sugars sit on their teeth.
As a parent of a child with a disability, you have to find creative ways to help your child while adapting to their specific needs.
Medications and Oral Health
Unfortunately, certain medications can increase the likelihood of dental problems. For instance, some medications can cause a dry mouth. Saliva is an essential component for overall good oral health. Saliva helps reduce the amount of acid in the mouth as well as it helps flush sugars and bateria out of the mouth.
One suggestion to help combat this would be to talk to your child’s dentist, let them know what medications your child is taking and see if they have any suggestions or ideas that would work best for your child.
Dentists and Children with Disabilities
Finding a good dentist who is honest and takes care of you can be challenging, especially for children. Oftentimes pediatric dentists aren’t trained to work with children with disabilities. Calling multiple dentists, asking several questions and specifically finding one that is comfortable working with your child is a great way to start.
Like other specialists you see for your child, it is important to find one you feel like you can work together to provide that best care for your child. Many parents find dentists through other moms of children with disabilities. Even if the dentist might be a further distance from your home, your child and their dental health is worth it!