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Special Needs and Dentistry

By Jill Feilmeier on April 30, 2013 in Kid's Health


Not many children are born with affection for brushing their teeth. For many, it takes coaxing and reinforcement on a daily basis. For others, direct supervision is necessary.

Toothbrush time can be even more difficult if you are raising a child with special needs. Children with certain medical, intellectual, and physical disabilities can suffer mouth problems more often and more easily. Delta Dental of Iowa has put together a list of tips to make your visits to the dentist less stressful.

1) Dental care starts at home. Make sure you are cleaning your child's teeth daily. If your child resists the traditional way of tooth brushing, try to brush your child's teeth with their head in your lap. This can sooth their nerves.

2) Make tooth-brushing time easier for your child. If your child can't grip their toothbrush, cut a hole in a tennis ball and slide the toothbrush through. If that doesn't work, try using a piece of Velcro to wrap around their hand and hold the brush in its place.

3) Practice healthy eating habits. A bunch of grapes or slices of an apple make much more desirable snacks than store bought munchies.

4) Find a dentist who has experience working with children with special needs. Not all dentists have the training, experience or desire needed to manage people with special needs. Look around for suggestions, and ask other parents who have children with special needs for a referral.

5) Talk to your dentist ahead of your child's appointment to address concerns. Ask them what to expect and how to prepare your child for meeting their new dentist. Make sure to tell your dentist about any behaviors that may inhibit his work and eating habits that may contribute to tooth decay.

6) Make your dentist a part of your child's health team. Visiting a dentist should be held at the same priority level as visiting their medical doctor.

7) Help to make your child feel safe at the dentist. Avoid using words like “shot “& “drill” and phrases like “be brave”. This can add to their anxiety.

Delta Dental of Iowa hopes your child's experience at the dentist is beneficial and comfortable.

Do you have experience with special needs dentistry? If you have suggestions for parents, please leave them in the comments section.