This study began with the observation that, quite often, special needs children do not tend to receive as much oral care as other children. In fact, the study mentions that dental treatment is the greatest “unattended health need of disabled people.”
The study mentions a child with Pachygyria in particular, which is a congenital malformation of the cerebral hemisphere of the brain. The condition causes seizures, developmental delays, and poor muscle control that can make eating and swallowing difficult. Due to the reduced muscle control, it can also make brushing and flossing far more difficult.
Delays in cognitive development can make children uncooperative for regular tooth brushing habits. Doctors state that these children are often given more medications as a result of their conditions, and some of those medications have negative side effects on oral health. Moreover, studies have also shown that special needs children are, on average, exposed to more sugary beverages than other children.
Reduced capacity to swallow can also mean that bits of food stay in the nooks and crannies of the mouth, stagnating and contributing to the harmful acids that erode tooth enamel.
The culmination of these factors leads to a pronounced increase in tooth decay.
Some families avoid going to the dentist for periods of time because the special needs child is uncooperative. They feel, understandably, that the dental office experience will be difficult or ineffective, and end up waiting until the child is in pain from an abscess to take action.
The value of a highly trained pediatric dental staff can’t be understated here. We put a lot of value on making the experience comfortable and treating it like something exciting for the child. When needed for children who have a hard time sitting still for the appointment, we can use a mild form of sedation to assist. Click the link to learn more.
Vignesh Ravindran, Rekha V, Annamalai S, Norouzi-Baghkomeh P, Sharmin D. A case report on dental management of a toddler with Pachygyria. J Clin Exp Dent. 2017 May 1;9(5):e726-e728. doi: 10.4317/jced.53684. PMID: 28512554; PMCID: PMC5429489.