A Parent’s Guide for Children With Special Needs in the Dental Office
Having a child with special needs can be challenging, but doctors and dental appointments are still necessary, like all other children. They still need their mental, oral and physical health taken care of, even if it comes with a few roadblocks. However, a dental visit can be even more terrifying for special needs children, not just because they don’t know what’s going on, but because they might not have their mom and dad available to hold their hand all the time. In addition, particular dental needs require more than a quick check-up, so it would be advisable for parents to prepare for the appointment as it would be for the child. So let’s look at ways to make their experience easier to handle for the child, their parents and the dental practitioner.
Finding the right dentist for your child
Paediatric dentists specialise in children’s oral health and are primarily prepared for the needs of most of these children. Even so, there are still checklists that you would need to go through with the dentist when you book your appointment for your child, as all children are not the same. Online resources will help you find the right dentist, and you can ask your paediatrician to assist with leads. However, it is better to go with someone who is a trusted source than pick a name off the internet and hope for the best.
Once you have found the dentist you would like to see, make a note of mentioning all the tiny details that could help both your child and the dentist. If there are any specifications, it will be easier for the dentist to be prepared for them and then have them run around on the day. You can also use the opportunity to ask them all the questions that you, as a parent, would like to know. Parents can also feel afraid if they have to leave their little ones with a stranger for a short while, but their questions can give you peace of mind.
Prepare your child
Depending on your child’s exact special needs, it is best to prepare them well in advance. This preparation would mean that their dental appointments would have to be booked at least a fortnight in advance to have ample time to comprehend the experience of what they are about to go through. Find a way to make them feel excited about their trip to the dentist so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Share all the information that the dentist shared with you with your child so they can understand it. If they indicate that they do not know what you are saying, try showing them friendly videos online of other children who might have gone to the dentist. Storytelling always helps to ease their minds, especially when it is in animated form.
Dental ailments that your child might have
If you do not know what the ailments are that your child has, then the list below might indicate the symptoms and help you book a suitable appointment. We all know how dangerous Dr Google can be, so to prevent online searches, here is a list to look for that might affect your child:
This could be a side effect of the medication your child is taking. However, the products there may be showing a more significant issue with the minimal result showing up in your child’s mouth. If you start to see small ulcers form in the mouth that take their time to go away or get worse, then you should speak to both your dentist as well as your paediatrician.
GERD (Gastro-esophagal Reflux Disease)
The acid reflux can cause the decaying of the teeth and can be uncomfortable for your child. They may need more severe medication if the dentist prescribed doesn’t help, but you would get a note from your dentist that you can take to your paediatrician.
Some children love holding their food in their mouths after chewing it, which can encourage bacteria to grow if there are issues with the teeth like breakage or decay. So if your child complains about toothache and you see them pouching their food, you should mention it to your dentist. It might be a slightly more challenging task to relieve a child with severe special needs from, but you can add a reward system to get them to stop and prevent future dental issues.
Certain medications are high in sugar and can ruin the enamel on your child’s teeth. You might not be able to cut the medication out of your child’s routine, but you can ask your dentist for advice on how to save the enamel on their permanent teeth. There are solutions for these problems, but you will need to find out if they will work for your child before exploring them.
There are two reasons why your child could have bad breath. First, their teeth may be decaying, or they could have a digestive issue. If the teeth are rotting, an extraction could solve the problem to remove the decaying teeth. Still, if the problem is due to their digestive system, your dentist can refer you back to the paediatrician to address the issue promptly.
As a parent, it can be challenging to leave your little one in the hands of strangers when they have special needs. A piece of advice that Bhandal dentists recommend is that you can make sure both you and your child feel comfortable by asking the dentist if they will allow you to stay in the room when there are mild procedures needed. For example, when more complicated issues require the use of a general anaesthetic, you can ask them to allow you to stay in the room until your little one goes under and to call you in when they are about to wake them up. It can be highly distressing for a child not to see a familiar face when they wake up, and this can lead to trauma, so discuss the issues with your dentist as in-depth as you possibly can.
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Dental Treatment Issues
Dental problems occur in the majority of persons with FASD. For children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), dental anomalies that can occur include cleft palate, over- and underdevelopment of the upper and lower jaw, as well as malformed, missing and/or misaligned teeth.
Other problems that affect dental treatment that can occur with FASD include:
- Weak muscles around the mouth that make it difficult to take food off a fork or spoon or to suck on a straw or the nipple of a bottle
- Unusual taste preferences for salty or spicy food at an inappropriate age
- Cavities occurring at a young age
- Prolonged and excessive drooling
- Weak muscles that prevent the proper placement of food for chewing
- Late or very early loss of baby teeth;
- Late or very early eruption of permanent teeth.
In addition, the patient with FASD may have unusual behavioral patterns and tissue and sensory issues that make dental treatment difficult. Patients with FASD may experience more “loud” sounds than the average person. The sound of tools used by a dentist or hygienist may seem extremely loud to them. Music headphones can be a great help. The weight of the lead apron used during dental x-rays is very comforting to the patient with FASD, and it may be useful to let her wear it throughout the treatment.
Sensory integration dysfunction of the mouth may create some unusual problems. Ask the dentist to suggest another type of toothpaste if the taste or texture annoys the person with FASD. Baking soda is a good semi-tasteless substitute and brushing with water is better than no brushing at all. There are commercial rinses that contain plaque removers and/or fluoride that would help with your child’s oral hygiene.) Rinsing should be practiced and done often during the day. Flossing or use of the WaterPik may be more comfortable. The mouth may be desensitized with oral massage. Daily massaging with a small portion of a towel or a rubber stimulator will help the individual to become used to objects in the mouth. (READ WHOLE ARTICLE HERE https://www.sites.google.com/site/socalfasdnetwork/fasd-and-social-issues/health-and-safety/medical-and-dental-treatment-issues)
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