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Dental care for special needs children could prove to have its challenges

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 households in the U.S. include at least one child with a special health care need. Special needs children generally need help with all of their daily activities, and maintaining proper dental care is no exception. It is now documented by many reliable dental and healthcare authorities that there is a direct relationship between optimum oral health and overall health. Therefore, extra attention needs to be paid to special needs children’s growing teeth to ensure that they stay healthy.

What do special needs parents and caregivers need to know about their child’s oral health?

Since most general dentists are not equipped to care for special needs children, it is important to find a good, caring pediatric dentist experienced with various types of special needs cases. It is also important to do this early (by the first birthday) so that a comfortable, trusted relationship is in place as the child’s dental home.

According to the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, research shows that young patients with autism do particularly well if they can see the same staff and same dentist every single time. The pediatric dentist will determine the best staff fit for the patient. The pediatric dentist also will want to be thoroughly informed of the child’s condition and will very often collaborate with their pediatrician.

Park View's Point of View

At Park View Pediatric Dentistry we have specialized in treating children with special needs and more challenging pediatric dental cases for decades. We are also New York City’ leading specialists in safe, sedation dentistry. Sedation is most commonly used for young children who are unable to cope with the delivery of dental care, children who have a high level of anxiety and for some children with special needs. For our more severe cases, we also provide general anesthesia—a care management technique that uses medications to allow your child to go to sleep while receiving dental treatment in a hospital setting. Our patients requiring anesthesia are treated at Northwell-Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

Here is our checklist for special needs parents and caregivers:

  • Do research in your area and find your pediatric dental home early, making sure that you stick to visiting them twice a year for checkups and cleanings.
  • Provide the pediatric dentist with all of the children’s medical history and pediatrician information.
  • Teaching any child to brush and floss is challenging enough, but for parents with special needs children extra patience and attention to keeping the routine is needed. A good pediatric dental team will be happy to educate you on tips and techniques and proper positive dental phrases to use with your child. Some children will need a toothbrush handle with a thicker or longer extension to make gripping the toothbrush easier.
  • Make oral health fun with tooth brushing songs, dental visit books and a bright, positive pediatric dental experience. We find that our special needs patients are particularly grateful for the goody bags, stickers and sugar-free ice pops that they receive after their checkups.
  • If your child is unusually anxious, can’t sit still in a dental chair or has a high volume of cavities, make sure that your pediatric dentist can provide the appropriate sedation options.

Contact us to learn more about treating special needs children at 212-879-6518.

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