Children with special needs are at higher risk for oral health issues for a variety of reasons. Often, medications have high sugar content, causing dry mouth that leads to a buildup of plaque and bacteria. In addition, children with special needs may hold food in their mouths for too long without swallowing, causing extra sugar to stick to their teeth, or they may have physical challenges with a brushing and flossing routine. Here are common issues to look out for:
- Tooth decay, gum disease and missing teeth
- Teeth that are not aligned
- Teeth grinding and clenching
- Holding food in their mouth for too long
- Breathing through the mouth
- Pushing the tongue against the back of the teeth
Also, be aware that teeth may appear later in life – sometimes even after the second birthday – in children with Down syndrome, and mouth trauma and injury from falls or accidents are more frequent in children with seizure disorders or cerebral palsy.