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Dental Tips for the Mentally Disabled

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National Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Dental Tips for the Developmentally Disabled

If you’ve ever taken care of someone else, you understand how difficult it can be to get them to brush their teeth and floss every day. When you’re caring for a child—or adult—with a disability, the challenges can be even greater, as they may be predisposed to certain oral health conditions. On top of that, going to the dentist can be stressful to anyone, let alone someone who’s not able to prepare for what to expect.

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we would like to share a few tips you as a caregiver can do to make sure your loved one maintains a healthy smile.

Dental Issues for People with Down Syndrome

There are common mouth issues that are associated with Down syndrome. Being aware of these issues will allow you to prepare and understand what steps to take next.

Children with Down syndrome often wait twice as long for baby teeth to arrive–usually around 12 to 14 months. Along with delayed eruption, they may have missing teeth, or their teeth may emerge in a different order than usual.

People with Down syndrome have a smaller upper jaw, which will crowd the upper teeth, causing an unaligned bite. Orthodontics can solve this issue, but they can be problematic for younger children. You may want to wait until they are older.

Down syndrome also compromises the immune system, leading to a higher chance of periodontal disease (gum disease). However, the treatment for gum disease remains the same:

  • Brush their teeth at least twice a day.
  • Floss every day.
  • Visit the dentist regularly.

 
X-rays and examinations are particularly important to monitor common mouth issues associated with Down syndrome.

How to Prepare for Going to the Dentist

Going to the dentist can be frightening for children or adults with Down syndrome or autism. Here are some steps you can take to make the visit to the dentist go as smoothly as possible.

Inform them of what to expect. Showing them what will happen while at the dentist’s office will eliminate their fear of the unknown.

Fraser has created a great app for children and adults with mental disabilities. It uses social stories and videos to educate kids on various dental topics, including the sounds they will hear and instructions they’ll receive at the dental office, as well as steps they can take to maintain their oral health at home:

My Healthy Smile

Before you bring your loved one in for care, schedule an appointment to meet with the dentist to explain how to best accommodate your loved one during a dental visit. As a side benefit, you will both have some time to establish a relationship with the dentist so everyone can be more comfortable with the process.

Taking care of a disabled person’s dental needs can be challenging. Here at Cochise Caring Dentistry, we want to make your visit an enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone.

Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Resources:

http://www.ndss.org/Resources/Health-Care/Associated-Conditions/Dental-Issues-Down-Syndrome/

https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/documents/dentalguide.pdf