One in five households include children with special health care needs. Unfortunately, special diets, medications and motor habits often cause children with special needs to have higher rates of poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease and gingivitis. In fact, dental care is the leading unmet health care need among children with special needs!
Special Needs and the Dentist
Special needs and the dentist can be tricky for any parent to handle. Children that have physical or mental special needs often suffer from increased anxiety when faced with a trip to the dentist. Special needs children can have many types of issues that can affect their everyday life, even when it comes to the hygiene of their teeth. This can mean that their dental work can be much more essential than a child that can brush and floss with ease. There are some types of disorders that can make it hard to explain to a child the importance of the hygiene of their teeth. They may not understand that a new person they may not know needs them to sit still so they can look into their mouth to check their teeth and gums. This can mean that issues such as cavities and gum disease that can cause pain, make intervention even harder to accomplish.
Making a Trip to the Dentist Easier
What can you do to make the trip to the dentist with a special needs child a little bit easier? There are several things to look into that can help ease the anxiety of this appointment.
Special Place – Long before the appointment, create a place to brush and floss and a special place to store your child’s dental supplies. This will help your child associate this room with the daily routine of dental health care. Be consistent; return to the same room each time you brush and floss. When choosing the room, consider your child’s special sensory needs (light, sound etc) and choose a place that is relaxing and comforting.
Experienced Pediatric Dentist – Choose a pediatric dentist like Smile Reef Dentistry that has experience treating and working with children with special needs. You can find out if the office staff or dentists have taken any classes that specialize in care of special needs. Most dental schools offer classes that help dentists and staff better understand how best to treat children with special needs.
Preparation – Always prepare your child in advance for the visit to the dentist. Making sure that you take time to talk to your child about what they can expect and where they will be going may keep them from feeling like they are being surprised by the visit. You can even talk to the office and see if they have photos that you can show your child – or better yet whether you can bring your child in a few days before to allow them to get familiar with the location. When you show up at your appointment make sure that you allow plenty of time in the day in case you have to wait for your turn. Also be sure that you bring things to make your child feel at ease while you are waiting.
Sedation – You may also want to consider an office that will offer sedation if that is what is best for your child. This can make a lot of the stress and anxiety lessen since the child will be unaware of the activity surrounding the appointment.
Smile Reef specializes in special needs dentistry. It is our goal to make all children not only feel comfortable but look forward to going to the dentist! Come by our office or contact us today to talk about your special needs dentistry.