Does My Child Have A Special Health Care Need?
You may not realize the full scope of special health care needs. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry defines special health care needs as “any medical management, health care intervention or use of specialized services or programs that are required to treat or prevent any physical, developmental, mental or sensory impairments or limiting conditions.” Children with special needs have unique concerns regarding their oral health and require specialized knowledge to ensure proper care.
Are children with special needs more likely to suffer from oral diseases?
Research shows that children with special needs might have a greater chance of suffering from dental trauma or developing oral diseases. Children with special needs, such as intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities, can be at greater risk for dental disease and trauma.
- A child with an intellectual disability might have difficulty understanding proper oral hygiene and its importance of it.
- Children with a physical disability might find it difficult or impossible to practice proper oral hygiene without assistance.
- Children with special needs might experience more dental anxiety than others, which may cause them to visit the dentist less often.
- A child may be more at risk for oral trauma if they have seizures or impaired motor skills.
- Some medical conditions may affect the development and function of the jaws and teeth.
- Some medical conditions such as ADHD, epilepsy, and sleep apnea can be linked to teeth grinding (bruxism), which can cause damage and wear to a child’s smile.
- Treatments that suppress the immune system (e.g. HIV or cancer therapies) can increase the likelihood of developing oral fungal infections such as candidiasis.
- Dry mouth can be caused by certain medical conditions like diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome. Your child’s natural tooth-cleaning agent is saliva. It washes away food particles, helps to regain minerals, and reverses damage from cariogenic bacteria. The result is that your child’s saliva production decreases, increasing the risk of cavities and other oral diseases.
- Children with special needs might need to be prescribed medication that causes dryness of the mouth.
- Children may need to have expensive and frequent medical visits because of their special needs. If time and finances are tight, dental care may be the priority.
Why Children with Special Needs Should See a Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric dentists have extensive training in areas like child psychology, child behavior management, and child sedation dentistry. They know how to explain procedures to patients using developmentally-appropriate language, strategies for managing dental anxiety, and how to properly coordinate care with patients’ pediatricians and other care providers.