Oral care doesn’t have to be a hassle for you or your child.
As a parent, you know the importance of healthy teeth for kids. You also know that a great at-home routine can contribute to your child’s overall dental health. Simple steps like brushing and flossing can make a major difference and set the foundation for a lifetime of bright smiles.
Want to help these habits stick? The key is to consider the unique needs of your child. If your little one is differently abled, there are plenty of ways to help them embrace their oral hygiene with care and confidence.
Today, we’re sharing 10 tips to help you get started!
1. Modify brushing.
Brushing is an essential part of a child’s self-care routine, but it can be frustrating for those with fine motor challenges. Today, there are lots of different tools and instruments that can make a traditional toothbrush much more comfortable to handle. For instance, some kids may need a larger handle or a better grip that allows them to hold and move the brush on their own. If you can’t find such a model in the store, try putting the bottom of their toothbrush in a bicycle handle to add bulk and traction.
If your child has sensory issues, they may find the sensation of brushing unpleasant at first. Try placing the toothbrush to your child’s lips at first or just inside their mouth. This can help them get used to the feel of the bristles, and you can approach the rest of the process gradually together.
2. Keep it fun!
Little ones are natural emulators, and they love to watch their parents react to just about everything! If you keep their dental routine fun and upbeat, they should begin to look forward to that time each morning and night. Play silly toothbrush songs, practice brushing on a stuffed animal, or let your child “brush” your teeth. When it feels more like play than work, they’re more likely to stick with it. These are also great distractions to help take their minds off the task at hand.
3. Start early.
Try to start your child’s dental care routine as early as possible, and schedule their first dentist visit by the time they’re one year old or when their first tooth erupts. This way, they’ll grow up knowing the importance of oral hygiene, and it won’t be as challenging to introduce them to the concept.
4. Find an experienced and knowledgeable dentist.
Finding the right dental team can make all the difference in your family’s oral health. If your child has special abilities, make sure the pediatric dentists you select are qualified and experienced to provide the best care possible for their needs. In some cases, you may need to visit a designated dentist for kids with special needs.
Before your first visit, ask about their approach to pediatric dental care, including the tools and technologies they use. Then, consider if their personality will fit well with your child’s. They should be patient, gentle, calm-natured, and able to create a warm and welcoming environment that helps them feel right at home.
5. Prepare ahead of time.
The day of your child’s dental visit should be as stress-free as possible. If it’s their first appointment, call the office ahead of time to explain your child’s special abilities. This way, the staff can make the proper preparations to make sure everything is set up as it needs to be. For instance, they can find an alternative seating solution if your child cannot sit in a chair. They may also bring in additional team members for extra support.
6. Complete paperwork early.
When your child visits the dentist, you should be able to devote your time and attention to their needs. If possible, try to complete the required patient forms ahead of time. This way, you and your child can stay relaxed and focused when the day arrives.
We make it easy for new visitors to take care of this step online via our virtual Sign-In Portal. If your dental office doesn’t offer a similar solution, then ask them to email you the forms so you can print them out and complete them at home.
7. Practice Before the Visit
Specially abled children might be apprehensive about visiting the dentist simply because they don’t know what to expect. You can help calm their nerves by practicing with them before their appointment date. Go over key phrases and tools the dentist might use, such as cleaning, flossing, or filling. You can also create a pretend in-office scenario and role-play the visit together! When they can visualize how the events will play out, their visit will feel much less intimidating.
8. Bring a favorite object.
Does your child take special comfort in a beloved stuffed animal or lovey? If so, feel free to bring it along to their dental appointment! This can help them feel less afraid and provide a helpful sense of security.
9. Phrase it right.
Ask your child’s dentist to explain the most common words and phrases your child might hear when they come for their appointment. Then, be sure to use this verbiage when you’re practicing with them at home. Explain what any complicated terms mean so there’s no confusion. This makes your pretend scenario as realistic as possible, which can help calm their fears when they arrive.
10. Try gels, wipes, and rinses.
Looking for simple ways to help ward off cavities at home? Xylitol wipes are disposable wet wipes that are specially designed to clean teeth and gums. While they aren’t meant to take the place of brushing, they can be helpful in many scenarios, such as when your child takes medication after brushing. You can also ask your dentist about other methods, including peroxide gels and mouth rinses, that can help promote kids healthy teeth!
Why Kids With Special Healthcare Needs Are At Risk for Dental Issues
You may already know that dental health is intrinsically linked to overall health. Yet, why are children with special needs more at risk for dental issues? There are several issues that can contribute to this effect, including:
- Medications that cause dry mouth or gum tissue overgrowth, which can negatively affect oral health
- Special, high-carb diets that lead to tooth decay
- Immune system impairment that heightens susceptibility to oral disease
- Genetic disorders that lead to missing or misaligned teeth
- Conditions that cause teeth grinding, or bruxism
- Fine motor issues and physical challenges that make brushing, flossing, and dental visits more difficult
With the right approach, you can mitigate these risks and help your child maintain healthy teeth and gums for life!
Healthy Teeth for Kids With Special Abilities
If you’re the proud parent of a child with special abilities, it helps tremendously to find a local dental “home” you can trust. Your provider can learn all about your child, including their preferences and dislikes, and help create an environment they love visiting. They’ll also be able to assist you in creating a solid at-home routine everyone can maintain. For healthy teeth for kids with special needs, care and compassion are paramount.
We’d love to be that home for your family, so feel free to reach out and request an appointment today!