Oral Health Care Basics for Children with Special Health Care Needs

Oral Health Care Basics for Children with Special Health Care Needs

istock_000013422905mediumInformation in this article was made available from a guide for parents and dental providers of children with special needs developed by the Oklahoma Dental Foundation in partnership with several funders. The entire guide is available for download at: Oral Health Care For Children With Special Health Care Needs.

The following is an excerpt from pages 4-5 of the guide.

Providing oral care for children and youth with special health care needs should generally follow the same standards of practice for typically developing children.

Much of what happens in an ordinary dental visit will still occur. Visits may be more frequent or
may require some extra personal attention or modification of equipment or procedures. Most visits, however, will be routine. The primary concern in treating children with special health care needs is that the dental provider be informed of all physical/medical conditions, medications,
allergies, and/or behaviors that will require accommodation.

A variety of protocols are given in the resource section of this guide for dental professionals. It is
a good resource for family members/caregivers also in understanding what to expect from a
dental provider.

istock_000003863654xsmallTrust is the first and most important thing to develop between the dentist, the child and the family member/caregiver.

Many children come to the dentist for the first time when they are already having oral problems. All children display some anxiety with their first trips to the dentist. Having oral discomfort combined with disabilities may make oral care more difficult and will only add to their
insecurity. Patience and assurance from both the family ember/caregiver and the dental staff will, in most cases, overcome these concerns.

Pre-appointment interviews, either in person, or over the phone, should be conducted to find out how various disabilities affect the child’s ability to cooperate with oral care. A full medical history is also very important as many disorders and several medications directly affect how, when and in what condition teeth erupt. The dentist will need all of this information as well as any behavioral concerns, such as if the child is combative or has oral aversions, in order to provide the best oral care

Consistency and routine are also important factors in dealing with children.
Consistency brings reassurance, as one success builds on another. When possible, have the same
staff members work with the child, include the receptionist greeting them by name, and use the
same dental chair each time.

Simple modifications and accommodations can be made to make the child with special health care needs feel comfortable going to the dentist.
Special training materials listed in the resource section of this guide will aid in making the dental
staff more knowledgeable and confident in making the necessary modifications. When both
family members/caregivers and dental providers work together, an accommodating setting will
be created that makes good oral care a part of everyday life.