Dental care for children with special needs


Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 4, 2024

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 4, 2024

Dental care for children with special needs or who have some physical, medical, developmental or cognitive conditions always takes a back seat due to their pressing medical care issues.

But our mouth is a part of our bodies and it needs appropriate care. Children with special needs are found to have twice as many dental problems as children without special needs. Here are some common problems these children face –

Delayed eruption

Children with Down’s Syndrome and other genetic disorders are know to have delayed eruption of teeth. This leads to poorly aligned and crowded teeth. Malformed, extra teeth or congenitally missing teeth are also seen in some cases. This requires extra care and attention while brushing.

Poor gum health

Poor tooth alignment causes gum problems. Maligned teeth, missing teeth put a lot of pressure on gums while chewing and weakens them. This why bleeding gums are common in children with special needs. If ignored for long, gum issues can even cause bone damage and loosening of teeth. Regular flossing could be difficult to practice in such situations. But you can always get a professional teeth cleaning done for your child by a dentist.

Special children are more prone to tooth decay

A lot of special needs kids have a dry mouth because of incomplete mouth closure. Dry mouth causes bacteria to stick to the teeth and attack them, causing cavities. In the absence of saliva’s buffering action, multiple teeth tend to get cavities at the same time . This is why rinsing well after every meal becomes very important to avoid decayed teeth.

Side effects of medications

Medications are a part of life for many children with special needs. But a lot of these medications badly affect their teeth. Sweet, flavored syrups cause cavities. Some medications like glycopyrrolate reduce drooling by reducing salivary flow, while others like Phenytoin, which are anti-consultants, cause gingival swelling. So make sure to ask your doctor for suitable alternatives.

Prevention better than cure, so here are some tips to take care of your child’s teeth at home –

  • Start early. Use a wet soft piece of gauze to clean your infants gums.

  • As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing their teeth with silicone finger brushes and a rice size amount of tooth paste.

  • For toddlers use soft brushes from brands like Fisher Price with a small pea sized amount of toothpaste.

  • Use training brushes from brands like Luvlap which come with soft silicone bristles, tongue cleaners and choking shield.

  • Consider investing in an kids electric toothbrush from brands like Oral -B for children with motor function issues.

  • Use fluoride rinses for older kids to reduce cavities. Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments for children to prevent tooth decay.

  • Give them a low sugar diet and avoid sticky, gummy foods especially at night.

Remember to start oral care early. Visit your dentist before your child turns one. If your child is anxious and doesn’t do well in social settings, you can even call your dentist home.

Care for your teeth just like you care for your kids. Brush twice a day with a good fluoridated toothpaste and floss regularly to maintain a good oral hygiene.

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Author Bio: Dr. Apurva Chavan is a dentist by the day and a voracious reader and writer by the night. She loves to fix smiles and tries to keep all her procedures as pain free as possible. Equipped with over 5 years of experience she loves to not just treat her patients but also educate them about dental hygiene and appropriate maintanence routines. After a long day of preserving smiles she loves to curl up with a good book or pen down some of life’s musings. She strongly belives that learning never stops and likes to keep her self updates with all the latest dental news and research.

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