How to Teach Children with Disabilities to Practice Dental Hygiene?
Depending on the nature of their impairment, children with disabilities can often struggle with fulfilling daily activities, especially the ones regarding self-care. That puts them at higher risk of developing dental caries and other oral health issues. Moreover, they might need extra help from their parents to maintain good oral health, including a specifically tailored dental care routine to fit their needs.
That said, let’s discuss some of the best ways you can teach a child with a disability to practice dental hygiene.
The Most Common Oral Health Problems in Children With Disabilities
According to the National Center of Dental and Craniofacial Research, tooth decay is more common in children with developmental disabilities. The same goes for periodontitis or gum disease, which kids with disabilities also develop at a young age.
Children with disabilities are often having a hard time when it comes to brushing and flossing effectively, so that is probably a reason why these problems occur so often among them. Malocclusion, or bad bite, is also present in children with disabilities, and these kids often have problems when it comes to chewing and speaking. They also tend to develop other damaging oral habits, such as teeth clenching, teeth grinding, food pouching, or tongue thrusting. This combines other dental malformations, delayed tooth eruptions, and so on.
What Can Parents Do?
Providing adequate oral care to a child with a disability can be full of challenges. The most important is to establish a routine following your child’s unique requirements. It will take some extra time and planning, but you can absolutely make it work. However, you need to make sure they brush their teeth every day or do it on their behalf if their disability makes it hard or impossible for them.
Flossing might prove to be even more challenging than brushing, but you should be consistent with that as well. Last but not least, help your child become familiar with the dentist’s office because regular dental visits are essential for maintaining good oral health. There are many ways you can teach them to feel comfortable at the dentist, including casual visits to help them prepare for the actual treatments, where they will get a chance to get acquainted with the setting, sit in a dental chair, etc.
How to Make Your Child Feel Comfortable When Brushing and Flossing?
Start by choosing the place in the house you believe your child will feel most comfortable. Even though you’re trying to establish a dental care routine for your child, keep in mind that they don’t necessarily need to brush or floss in the bathroom if they usually don’t like spending their time there.
Depending on their disability, your kid might also find dental care to be frightening, but that shouldn’t discourage you. If this is the case, you can try the tell-show-do method. It consists of telling your child about each step in the dental care routine you’re going to take before you actually take it. Then, you should show how you’re going to do it. Finally, you should do it in the exact same way you explained you will do it in the first place.
The most important thing here is to give your child enough time to become comfortable with the routine. If they definitely can’t practice oral hygiene on their own, give them time to become comfortable with you brushing and flossing their teeth.
Don’t forget to give them positive feedback whenever you can. If you still find it difficult, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your pediatric or special care dentist, and they will give you more valuable advice.
How to Behave at a Dentist?
If you’re not sure what the dentist will need from you at your child’s visit, you can always give them a call beforehand. This will allow you to prepare for it in the best possible way. Don’t be reluctant to share any data regarding your child’s medical history your dentist might ask from you. They will use it to pick the right approach for your child so that treatment goes as smoothly as possible.
Parents of children with disabilities are usually focused on their child’s primary health issues, which often leaves their oral health issues behind. On top of that, teaching children with disabilities to practice good oral hygiene can be quite demanding. However, there are things you can do to help your child develop a better oral care regimen, but you will have to be patient, creative and reach out to your pediatric or special care dentist if need be.
Do you think we forgot to mention something? Perhaps you have a valuable tip or two on how to teach children with disabilities to practice oral hygiene? We’d really like to hear about it in the comment section below!