If you have children, you know how difficult it can be to get them excited about taking care of their teeth. If you have kids with special needs, getting them to brush and floss every day, or visit the dentist, can feel nearly impossible. Children with cognitive, developmental, emotional, physical or medical conditions may experience heightened anxiety or discomfort when it comes to dental care (both at home and at the dentist). Handling their unique needs requires patience, understanding and compassion.
At Innovative Pediatric Dentistry, we’re proud to be experts in dental care for kids with special needs. As pediatric dentists, we are specially trained in different behavioral techniques to help your children feel as comfortable with their Naperville dentist as possible. After all, proper oral hygiene is critical to overall health, especially for youngsters who have special requirements. It’s important to start as early as possible to set the foundation for lifelong health. Here’s why.
Dental Care for Kids with Special Needs
We know it can be a struggle to get any kid to the dentist, let alone a child who has a physical or developmental impairment. You might even think that since your kids’ teeth are going to fall out anyway, there’s no point in putting them through the stress of going to the dentist until their adult teeth come in. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Getting an early start on dental care for kids with special needs is essential to their health. Known as preventive dentistry, it helps stop health problems from occurring before they even start. Instead of waiting for an issue to pop up, preventive dentistry is the best option for special needs kids. That’s because it will help your little ones avoid discomfort from things like cavities, and it also means fewer costs and dentist appointments down the line.
Preventive dentistry for children with special needs starts at home with regular brushing and flossing. Your child’s dental care should also include routine visits with a dentist who understands your child’s unique needs, like the experts at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry. They have additional training that has equipped them to care for patients with special needs, so you can feel comfortable knowing that they are in good hands.
How to Establish a Healthy Dental Care Routine for Special Needs Kids
Dental care for children with special needs takes extra care and diligence, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. With a little planning and preparation, you can help your child take good care of their teeth now and for the future.
- Create a Consistent Routine
To ensure your child’s oral hygiene success, it’s important to get into a consistent routine from day one. Find a daily rhythm of brushing and flossing every morning and every night (and after sugary snacks). Be sure never to skip a day — missing just one session can significantly set your child’s progress back. But with consistency and repetition, we’re sure your child will learn to stay on top of their oral health.
- Take Things Slow
Dental care for children with special needs takes extra patience and practice. Children with autism, for example, are often overwhelmed by sensory stimuli which can make brushing and flossing extremely challenging (and uncomfortable). Ease into the process slowly by first touching a toothbrush to your child’s lips or the inside of the mouth. This will help them get used to the feeling in a way that doesn’t feel invasive.
- Brush and Floss Together
Once your child is comfortable with a toothbrush, you can encourage them to get excited about oral hygiene by making dental care a family affair. Brushing and flossing together will not only allow you to keep track of your child’s progress, but it gives you the opportunity to show them proper technique. After all, kids love to mimic their parents, so use this to your advantage and let your little one copy your oral hygiene skills.
- Choose Healthy Foods
Proper oral hygiene isn’t just about brushing and flossing — it’s also about eating right and avoiding too much sugar. Limiting starchy and sugary foods will help prevent cavities and also supports the development of strong, healthy teeth. Make sure your children brush their teeth after every meal (especially after sweet treats!), and encourage them to drink plenty of water to wash those sugar bugs away.
- Find a Dentist with Experience with Special Needs Kids
Not every dentist is prepared or equipped to handle the dental requirements of children with special needs. Certain conditions can slow down the development of your child’s mouth or can make treatment more difficult and time-consuming, which is why special needs children require extra care and attention. The doctors at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry have the training, experience and ability to care for special needs patients of all ages and they treat every child with the respect and dignity they deserve.
- Prepare Yourself and Your Child for the First Dentist Visit
Most people have a little fear around going to the dentist, but it can be especially distressing for children with special needs. You can help to alleviate some of this anxiety by staying positive about the upcoming appointment and doing some groundwork ahead of time. Talk to your Naperville pediatric dentist prior to the appointment and ask any questions so you know what to expect. You could even stop by the dentist office a week early to show your child where they’ll be going so they know it’s a safe space. The doctors at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry are here to help you and your child navigate this new experience. No matter what your children’s needs, you can trust that we are here for them every step of the way.