Differently-abled children sometimes need a different approach to dental care.
An estimated 2.8 million children in the United States have a physical, sensory, or intellectual disability. Each and every one of them is awesome, unique, and a gift to this world!
Children with special needs sometimes require special dental care. The Pediatric Dental Specialists of Greater Nebraska are here to help.
From at-home dental care to appointments with a special needs pediatric dentist, consistency and adaptation to your child’s needs are key.
Read on to find out more about how to develop a positive dental care routine with your differently-abled child.
Special Dental Care at Home
Building a solid special dental care routine starts at home! Ideally, everyone should clean their teeth and gums twice a day. Some children may have a harder time adjusting to this routine but we’ve got a few tips that will make dental care easier.
Adjusting to the Toothbrush
In the beginning, your child may not be too fond of their toothbrush. It may feel funny to them and they may learn to clamp their mouth shut every time you bring it out!
If your child is not a fan of the toothbrush, start out with a clean rag or cotton swab and work your way towards the toothbrush. A soft material isn’t as rough on the gums and will still do the job of transferring fluoride to their teeth and gums.
In the meantime, if it’s appropriate for your child, let your child chew on a training toothbrush twice a day. This will help them adjust to the feel of it and learn that it isn’t so bad, after all!
Some young kiddos may find that they prefer brushing on their own. Allow them to do so but remind them that you have to “check” and make sure they got every tooth. In doing so, you’re letting them get used to using a toothbrush on their own while also teaching them the importance of a thorough cleaning!
Building a Positive Routine
Specialists in special needs care often discuss the importance of routine. Establishing a routine prepares your child for what’s coming each day and gives them the confidence to get through their daily tasks!
Keep your dental care routine orderly and consistent. For example, if nighttime brushing usually comes right after bathtime, it should always come right after bathtime. That way, it’s expected rather than feeling like an unpleasant surprise.
Focus on making at-home dental care a positive time!
Is there a short song that your child loves to hear? (Perhaps “Baby Shark”? Doo-doo doo-doo-doo-doo!)
Try incorporating that into your brushing routine so that it’s something to look forward to. Other distractions are welcome as well, as long as they brighten your child’s mood without disrupting dental care altogether.
Finally, consider taking the routine out of the bathroom if a negative association develops early on. Sure, it might be a little bit messy. If your child feels safer and more comfortable in their bedroom or somewhere other than the bathroom, it just might be worth the mess.
Finding the Right Special Needs Pediatric Dentist
Regular dentists who primarily treat adults may not have the experience necessary to provide dental care for special needs kids. You’ll want to find dentists who are known for working with children and have a high success rate.
When to Set the First Appointment
We tend to recommend that parents bring their child in for their first dental appointment when their first tooth erupts or when they turn one. (It all depends on which one comes first!)
Once teeth start erupting, there are a lot of changes happening in their mouths. There are new opportunities for plaque buildup and gum irritation. Plus, some of those baby teeth will stick around for about twelve more years!
Certain disabilities are accompanied by an increased risk for things like gum disease, enamel wear, and tooth misalignment. Starting a good dental care routine from an early age helps us keep track of any problem areas and tackle them head-on.
The Importance of Sticking With the Same Dentist
The Pediatric Dental Specialists of Greater Nebraska commit to sticking with your family from the baby years all the way through the teenage years. Why?
Visiting the same dentist year after year will help your child feel at ease about the whole situation. A familiar environment and familiar faces are crucial to establishing a routine.
Plus, when you stick with the same dentist for several years, you’ll receive consistent care from an office that knows everything there is to know about your child’s dental needs! There’s no risk of lost files or unnecessary procedures.
Preparing Your Special Needs Child for a Trip to the Dentist
Getting used to dental appointments can be difficult for any child. It doesn’t happen often enough to become a part of the routine. However, there are a few ways you can make this process a little easier.
The first is to start talking about the appointment in advance. Put it on the calendar and show your child a few weeks in advance. Count down the days with them and make sure you’re talking about it in a positive way so that they see from your behavior that there’s nothing to be scared of.
On the day of the appointment, you may want to give yourself plenty of extra time before and after the appointment. Take it slow and let your child adjust to the change in their routine. Rushing off to the dentist may cause distress so take it one step at a time.
How do I find a dentist for my special needs child near me?
If you’re in Hastings, Grand Island, North Platte, or Omaha, Nebraska, and you need special dental care for your child, you’re in luck. We’ve got locations in all of these areas and our dentists have tons of experience working with children who have special needs.
For more information, contact us today. We can’t wait to be part of your child’s dental care routine!