Dental care is important for everyone, including children. This becomes even more important when it comes to children with special needs. Due to health conditions, they are not able to take care of their oral health like normal children. The OnlyMyHealth editorial team talked to Dr Kishkindha, BDS, based in Ludhiana, Punjab, to know what parents of specially-abled children should know and keep in mind.
Who Are Special Needs Children?
Special needs children are those individuals who have chronic physical, developmental, behavioural, or emotional issues. They often face difficulties when it comes to daily tasks and needs more intensive dental and medical care. The other health conditions that make it challenging to perform daily tasks include cleft lip or palate, Down syndrome, neurological illnesses, cerebral palsy, and visual and hearing impairments.
Oral Health Condition Special Needs Children Suffer
Children who suffer from genetic disorders like Down syndrome can lead to delays in the eruption of teeth. Additionally, these kids may have congenitally missing teeth or teeth that are developing abnormally, like malformed or additional teeth.
Furthermore, because children with crowded teeth and improper alignment generally have a harder time keeping their teeth clean, they are more likely to develop gum disease and dental decay. Children with severe intellectual disabilities or cerebral palsy may routinely grind their teeth, flattening them while slowly wearing away the enamel.
What Parents Should Know?
Dr Kishkindha said that taking care of the dental needs of special children is a big task. Not just special children but all pediatric patients; both dentists and parents play a very important role in maintaining their oral health. Adding to this, she said, "Parents play an equal role in maintaining oral hygiene in their children. Parents should be well aware of how to maintain oral hygiene in children before, during, and after the pregnancy."
"If children are not able to brush their teeth on their own due to any mental or physical illness, then the responsibility falls on the parents to ensure proper brushing," she added. For this, they need to talk to their dentist, who will recommend ways to maintain proper oral hygiene based on the needs of children. When not taken care of in oral health, children can develop cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. This can worsen when they mature and grow in life.
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She said, "Children with behavioural issues like thumb-sucking habits can develop orthodontic problems like malalignment of teeth. Even in this, parenting plays an important role in ensuring that children are not constantly sucking on their thumbs."
On children who have a cleft lip or palate, Dr Kishkindha said, "They have to undergo surgery, which has to be done at one and half years of age. This is a complete procedure of many sitting, so parents can start visiting a dentist when their child is three months old."
"There is a stigma attached to special children, so they need more attention. Along with a dentist, parents and society play a significant role in the maintenance of their oral health. Encouraging and dispelling dental anxiety from them is another thing parents should work on," she concluded.
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