Going to the dentist is often characterized as the least enjoyable “check up” by people of all ages. Many adults find that they dread going to the dentist and often put off or cancel their regularly scheduled appointments. The noises of scraping the teeth, having someone else’s hands in their mouths, and having to lay back for a thorough dental teeth cleaning causes many adults to have a fear of the dentist. Now, imagine this fear – again, common in adults – to a child. And then imagine this fear to a child who has special needs or developmental disabilities.
Many children with special needs cannot be talked into having their teeth cleaned. Parents typically try to encourage their children and put goals in front of them (e.g. ice cream, a toy, etc.) to help children make it through their visit to the dentist. This does not always work for children with special needs, and dentists often have a difficult time cleaning their teeth. But dental care is almost more important for children with special needs than it is for children without special needs. Children with Down’s syndrome and seizure disorders are very susceptible to periodontal disease and gingival hyperplasia. Both of these dental conditions are severe enough to lead to health problems outside of the mouth and should not be left untreated.
The key is finding a dentist that your child with special needs feels comfortable enough around to allow her/him to examine the mouth and clean the teeth. Often, this takes repeated, frequent visits in order to build up the trust between the child and the dentist. While it may be more difficult and may take more time to find a dental practice that your child with special needs will willingly visit, it is worth the effort. Oral health promotes general health, and children with special needs often require specialized intervention to keep their mouths healthy.
Posted on behalf of David Kurtzman
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