Helping Kids With Unique Needs Achieve Optimal Oral Health
As a parent of a child with special healthcare needs, you may already know that there’s often a high risk for developing oral health issues, such as tooth decay. This heightened risk level is often due to a combination of pre-existing health conditions and the extended period of time it can take to help your child get accustomed to brushing, flossing, and dental appointments.
However, with a little time, patience, and the help of a pediatric dentist, there’s no obstacle between your child and a healthy, beautiful smile.
Here are 6 quick tips to help you get your child on the path toward optimal oral health.
1. Find a dental home with a dentist and team that mesh with your child’s personality and needs.
One of the most important things parents can do is find a dental home for their child as early as possible. A dental home is a concept created by the AAPD to help families establish a long-term relationship with a pediatric dental practice. Rather than visiting different dentists, parents will take their child to only one practice.
By developing this type of relationship, parents are much more likely to maintain regular six-month appointments for their child. And most importantly, kids with dental anxiety or other unique needs are able to build trust and friendship with their dentist and staff.
2. Introduce brushing and flossing into your child’s daily routine, even before their primary teeth erupt.
Taking care of your child’s teeth can begin even before their baby teeth have erupted! Pediatric dentists often recommend parents wipe their infant’s gums daily and switch to a soft, infant-style toothbrush as soon as their teeth come in.
The early form of dental care can be especially useful for kids who may struggle with adapting to new experiences or situations. If your child is already a little older and has some of their baby teeth, no need to worry. It’s never too late to start brushing and flossing.
3. Practice at-home dental examinations and play dentist before upcoming dental appointments.
Kids who happily brush and floss may still have a tough time having their mouth examined by a dentist. You can help them get accustomed to examinations by taking a lot in your child’s mouth before or after their brushing and flossing sessions. Gently pressing on the gums or around their lips as a dentist might do should also be included.
A fun way to go about this is to play dentist. You and your child can take turns being the dentist and the patient. Doing this before an upcoming dental appointment can be especially useful if your child may not remember what going to the dentist is like.
4. Experiment with different oral care products, tools, and techniques to find what works best.
When standard toothbrushes and other oral care products aren’t working well for your child, rest assured there is a solution out there!
For kids who need help holding their toothbrushes, you can find ideas for modified toothbrushes online, such as adding a rubber handle for grip or attaching it to a ruler to extend the length of the handle. If your kids aren’t ready to accept a toothbrush, you can look into fingertip-style brushes or xylitol wipes to help keep their teeth clean.
Reach out to your child’s dentist or even online parent groups to get ideas for products or techniques to try.
5. Work with your child’s emotions to make dental care a positive experience that’s either fun or no big deal.
The ultimate goal is for your child to view dental care as a positive experience, but there are different ways to reach that goal. Kids who are a bit reluctant or nervous about dental care can come out of their shell by turning brushing or flossing into a very upbeat, fun event. Kids who are prone to being a bit overstimulated may benefit from approaching dental care as no big deal to help promote calmness.
As the parent, you know your child’s emotions best when it comes to either ramping up the fun or toning down the excitement.
6. Evaluate your child’s diet and look for ways to increase nutrition while reducing sugars and starches.
Even an impeccable dental care routine can’t replace a healthy, nutritious diet. Sugar is famously known for causing cavities, but starches can be just as detrimental. Take a look at your child’s current diet and see how you might be able to gradually make changes. Crunchy vegetables as snacks, sugar-free flavored water in place of juice, and fruit to satisfy a sweet tooth are great places to start.
Working with a pediatric nutritionist is highly recommended, especially if your child’s needs involve dietary restrictions, such as soft foods.
Choose the We Make Kids Smile family as your child’s dental home.
If you’re looking for a pediatric dental practice to establish as your child’s dental home, the We Make Kids Smile team extends a welcoming invitation for you to meet our family.
Our pediatric dentists and staff offer a compassionate, comprehensive approach to kids’ dental care. In addition to our dedicated focus on pediatrics, our dentists have gone through additional training in caring for kids with all abilities, including special medical concerns.
To learn more about how We Make Kids Smile can help your child on their road to lifelong oral health, give our Waldorf or Prince Frederick offices a call. You can also request a consultation by filling out this easy online form.