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The oral health of special needs children is a major concern for healthcare professionals and parents. According to McMillen Health, high rates of tooth decay can be found in children with special needs and disabilities, which can lead to more serious diseases such as pneumonia. 1)The Journal Gazette In addition, the lack of oral health specifically for children with Down syndrome and other genetic disorders can cause a delay in tooth eruption and destructive periodontal disease. 2)National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Unfortunately, appropriate hygiene, such as oral health, often takes a back seat as special need parents are overwhelmed with many other responsibilities.
There are also many other factors that can lead to poor oral health of special needs children, such as:
- the lack of knowledge of how to brush their teeth appropriately
- not being able to communicate that they have a toothache or their mouth hurts
- being afraid to go to the dentist office
- special diets, such as high starchy foods
- lack of motor skills.
As a result, states and non-profit organizations such as McMillen Health’s Brush! program, have launched oral health programs for special needs children to combat this issue. McMillen Health has received funding from AWS Foundation and Delta Dental Foundation to expand the program in Indiana and Michigan. 3)The Journal Gazette
There are many other states that have taken action as well, such as (not an inclusive list):
It is important that you find your local oral health program to make sure your child is getting proper dental care to prevent tooth decay and other periodontal diseases. Other strategies that you can do at home include:
- finding a dentist that has experience with special needs children
- visiting the dentist early and often to get them use to the experience
- use a social story to help ease any anxiety or fears
- turn brushing their teeth into a game
- eat healthy meals as much as possible
- use specially designed toothbrushes or toothpaste for special needs children
When children get the appropriate dental care early on this helps to develop oral health routines and habits, which will be necessary to become independent adults.
What challenges have you had with oral health?
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