Children with special needs

Children with Special Needs

Oral health advice follows the guidelines on the Children 0-4 and Children 5 -15 pages; however special consideration needs to be given to the following.

Some children with complex medical histories, learning difficulties etc, may find dental treatment frightening, or treatment may be difficult. Such children may be recommended fluoride drops or tablets. The use of these supplements should be discussed with the dentist.

The importance of diet should be stressed with parents and carers. Reward strategies may need to be modified. Ask them to reward children with toys and comics instead of sugary snacks.

To prevent decay in permanent back teeth fissure sealants (a plastic coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth) should be applied soon after the teeth come through. The first adult back tooth erupts at about 6 years of age.

Sugars in medicines can cause tooth decay. Some children with special needs may be on a large amount of medication for a long period. Nearly all medicines, both prescription and over the counter, are available in sugar free form. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about these.

As toothbrushing is the only effective way to remove plaque this needs to be carried out twice daily. Toothbrushing can be stressful for both parents and children so choosing a time and place to suit individuals is important. Toothbrushes can be adapted, if the child finds handing them difficult, and other mouth cleaning aids are available. Electric toothbrushes have been found useful with some children with special needs. Family and carers must ensure that the heads are changed when worn and that the brush is fully charged.

It is important for all children to be seen regularly by a dentist. Special needs children may need to be seen more frequently depending on their individual needs. For example, acclimatisation to the surgery environment, more frequent scaling and polishing or for preventative advice.

All the above should be discussed with the child's dentist who will provide an oral health plan.