Regular dental visits
If there is one point that has to be stressed in this section, it is that children with special needs have to see their dental professional on a regular basis.
We realise that some medically compromised children or children with disabilities face an endless parade of specialists. Sometimes making appointments for dental care falls to the bottom of the list. This is a mistake. Oral health is an important part of total health.
Regular dental visits allow daily oral care to be reinforced and small problems to be identified before they become big ones.
There is another important benefit from regular dental visits. For children who find it difficult to cope in the dental chair, regular dental visits build familiarity with the clinical surroundings. Children get to know the dental professional, the dental staff and the office environment. This can make treatment much easier when it is needed as the children have already developed trust with the dental team.
Some special children require extra precautions or attention for dental care. For example, children with repaired heart defects may require antibiotics before certain dental procedures, while children lacking the ability to relax and cooperate in the dental chair may need sedatives. These will be prescribed by your dentist if needed.
Special toothbrushes can sometimes make mouth cleaning easier.
These types include sponge brushes which can prevent accidental injury and suction brushes which removes saliva while brushing.
Some special children may resist mouth cleaning by biting the toothbrush.
Similarly, some children with neuromuscular problems may bite down when attempts are made to put a toothbrush in the mouth.
To protect the child as well as the parent/caregiver, a mouth prop can be used. Mouth props are available commercially and may be known as ‘open wide disposable mouth rests’.
They come in regular and thick versions.
If you cannot find a commercially made mouth prop, you can wrap five wooden tongue depressors together with adhesive tape and use this to keep the mouth open during mouth cleaning.
Bulky handles on toothbrushes
Another way to make tooth brushing easier for children with limited motor skills is to use a toothbrush with a bulky handle.
If you can't find one of these, or the handle is still too small, you can fill a small ball or bicycle grip with plaster or a plastic material and insert a toothbrush before the plaster or plastic sets.
The head size of the brush should be small or medium.
Your dental professional may be able to help you make these special brush handles.
Children with limited coordination and motor skills often find tooth brushing a challenge.
There are several ways to make tooth brushing easier for them. One way is to use an electric toothbrush. The head of the brush works much quicker than a manual toothbrush.
The movement of the head of the electric toothbrush can clean teeth better than a manual toothbrush.