Individuals with disabilities comprise 12% of the population in developing countries. Providing both primary and comprehensive, preventive and therapeutic oral health care to individuals with special needs is an integral part of pediatric dentistry.
Children with disabilities show poor oral hygiene even after oral health care education which may be attributed to the lack of coordination, understanding, physical disability or muscular limitations. More attention needs to be given to the long-term dental needs of these special children through accurate disease detection, diagnosis, prevention through habit forming and relevant treatment interventions.
Children with special needs show an increased prevalence of gingivitis/periodontitis and are more susceptible to dental caries. Following preventive measures can be followed by caregivers:
- Using power toothbrushes instead of manual brushing
- Flossing teeth daily to prevent interdental decay
- Use of chlorhexidine mouthwashes (in case of children with swallowing difficulties a mouth spray can be used)
- Avoid using sweets as an incentive/reward
- If frequent snacking is being given-avoid foods containing sugars or use sugar-free snacks
- If medicated syrups need to be given often-use sugar-free syrups where possible. If not rinse mouth after every dosing to avoid dental caries
- If medication is given causes xerostomia (dry mouth)-drinking more water is recommended and rinse mouth often
- Preventive sealants and fluoride therapy is recommended at a dental clinic
- In cases of severe maloccluded teeth-orthodontic treatment is recommended if caregivers will be able to maintain oral hygiene of the child
- In cases where children suffer from certain habits like mouth breathing/bruxism etc, habit breaking appliances may be given if possible.