Children with long-term health issues require special care. While you may carefully monitor your child’s health by attending extra doctor’s appointments and watching for new symptoms, you may be unaware of the effects that their condition has on their oral health. Many of the most common chronic health conditions that children face create changes in their mouth that require you to prioritize helping them pay extra attention to their teeth and gums.
Common Chronic Health Conditions
The Teeth and Gums Issue
Some children are born with health concerns that make caring for their teeth extra important from the very beginning. For instance, children with Down’s syndrome or Turner syndrome are more vulnerable to enamel hypoplasia, which is a condition that occurs when the teeth do not form with enough enamel. Your child may need special treatments such as fluoride or dental bonding to build-up teeth that are left vulnerable to decay and sensitivity by the lack of enamel.
Many behavior health issues are also considered chronic. Conditions such as autism and ADHD may cause your child to forget to brush and floss their teeth. A child who has oppositional defiant disorder may outright refuse to follow their orthodontist’s instructions unless they have developed a strong relationship that generates trust and respect. Your child may also struggle with the taste of toothpaste or the feeling of an orthodontic appliance in their mouth if they have a sensory processing disorder.
Respiratory conditions, such as asthma, may cause your child to experience dry mouth. This can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Kids with a dry mouth may also find wearing braces or a retainer uncomfortable unless they take additional steps to increase saliva flow within their mouth.
You should also be aware that health conditions such as juvenile diabetes cause systemic changes that affect oral health. For instance, a child with diabetes is more vulnerable to infections in the mouth due to potential reduced blood flow to the soft tissues. For these kids, you will want to be extra careful to help them floss to prevent gum disease. In some cases, orthodontic treatment may be necessary to reduce gaps or bring overlapping teeth apart so that they can brush and floss more effectively
Signs of Dental Issues that Signify a Need for Extra Care
As you monitor your child’s health, it is recommended that you also pay attention for the symptoms of oral health issues. For instance, a child who sucks their thumb frequently to offset the symptoms of a sensory processing disorder may develop prominent front teeth that need to be realigned in the mouth.
Your child may also complain of pain if they grind their teeth at night, or you may notice issues such as cracked teeth that require removal or a major restoration. Damage to the teeth may also occur slowly over time if your child develops cavities, and these may not be readily visible if your child’s teeth are spaced too closely together. For this reason, regular exams are a necessary part of their dental care that can help you to identify problems before they get out of hand.
Tips to Combat Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a common complaint that children experience that may be linked to their medications. For instance, many anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medications cause reduced saliva production. If your child has dry mouth, then encourage them to drink water throughout the day to help keep the tissues in their mouth hydrated and rinse away food debris.
Your child may also need to use special mouth rinses to help recreate the effects of saliva. If your child wears an orthodontic appliance such as braces, then they may need to use special wax to reduce friction from the wires on the inner parts of their lips and cheeks.
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Ways to Promote Good Oral Hygiene
A child with a long term health condition may need help with their oral hygiene. You may need to set alarms or use a reward chart to motivate and remind kids with ADHD to brush their teeth. A child who struggles with ADHD may also need you to remind them to do things such as soak their plastic aligner trays or replace the rubber bands on their braces. Since proper oral hygiene is essential for them to get the most from their orthodontic treatment, you may need to temporarily take a bigger role in telling even older kids that it is time to brush their teeth.
You can also promote good oral hygiene by making it fun. Play music while your child brushes their teeth and challenge them to keep brushing until the song is done. You can also let your child experiment with different toothpaste flavors and floss until they find one that is acceptable to their selective palate.
Helping Kids With Sensory Disorders Care for Their Teeth
Children with sensory processing disorders face specific challenges when it comes to dental care. Your child may find it hard to sit in the exam chair if they are especially energetic. Frequent breaks may be needed in this type of situation, and you can help your child develop a signal to show their care provider that they need a break to get up and move around. Your child may also benefit from wearing noise-canceling headphones or listening to music to drown out the sounds of loud equipment such as a drill.
Matching Orthodontic Treatment to Your Child’s Needs
There are so many different types of orthodontic appliances that it is possible to find something to meet any child’s needs. Your child may need fixed metal braces if they have ADHD and will not be able to keep up with their trays. Alternatively, your child may be a candidate for Invisalign if they eat a special diet that includes foods that traditional braces may not allow for such as crunchy vegetables. Talk to Dr. Gorton about their lifestyle so that we can make sure that their treatment plan fits perfectly into their routine.
A FREE Consultation Awaits
At our office, we welcome children from all types of backgrounds, and we especially encourage you to share information about your child’s health so that we can plan for the right type of treatment. Give us a call for a free consultation today so that we can help you combat the effects of a chronic health condition on your child’s teeth.
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900 Larkspur Landing Circle, Suite 200
Larkspur, CA 94939
Text or call us at 415 459 8006
Chronic Health Conditions & Extra Dental Care [2019 FACTS]
Dr. Jasmine Gorton, a Bay Area native, graduated from UC Berkeley with Bachelor degrees in both Integrative Biology and Social Sciences and then went on to graduate from Harvard with honors for her Doctorate in Dental Medicine.
She continued her education at UCSF with a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Growth and Development, followed by an Orthodontic Residency with a Master of Science in Oral Biology.
She is Board Certified in Orthodontics. She received the American Association of Orthodontics Award for Craniofacial Research and the Harvard Odontological Society Award for Excellence in Research. Her work on preventing decay around braces has been published in the American Journal of Orthodontics.