People Who Need Complete Daily Dental Care

Some people with developmental disabilities or with special health care needs are not able to brush their teeth or floss on their own. They require the help from a caregiver. Although caregivers play a crucial role, it is important to empower patients to participate in daily dental hygiene practices. Here are a few tips:

  • Brush with an electric toothbrush for patients with disabilities for more thorough plaque removal.
  • To address low dexterity, use a thicker handle instead of the original toothbrush handle. You can also use a tennis ball or bike handle if the toothbrush handle needs to be bigger.
  • Caregivers can also practice the “hand under hand” technique when assisting the patient with brushing.

People Who Can Brush and Floss but Need Help

Some people with special care needs may only need to be shown how to brush and clean between their teeth. Below are dental care tips to follow:

    • Stand in front of a mirror behind the individual.
    • Allow them to brush themselves, use positive reinforcement, correct and take over when needed.
    • Announce that you’ll be taking over to help reach the hard spots, make sure to go slow for their comfort.
    • If they start feeling uncomfortable, give them a break. It is important for one to have a positive experience with dental care and force should never be used.
    • Assist with toothbrushing and flossing for special needs with involuntary movements.
    • Involuntary head movements:
      • Stand in front of a mirror, behind the special needs person.
      • Ask them if it’s okay to stabilize their head with a hand on their chin.
      • If they can hold the toothbrush, let them brush on their own, and use positive reinforcement, correct and take over when needed.

Dental Care Tips for Special Needs Caregivers

    • Blind: Speak clearly, enunciate words, and use guiding motions when showing oral hygiene instructions.
    • Deaf or hard of hearing: Utilize visuals, still enunciate words, have writing instruments available in case they would like to write down questions for provider and/or caregiver
    • Hand-dexterity Issues:
      • Sit in a well-lit area
      • Have the patient lay their head in your lap
      • Announce step-by-step what you will be doing
      • Utilize tongue depressors as a mouth prop, if needed.

Signs of Cavities

In between your child’s routine visits to a dental provider, it is useful to perform regular visual inspections of your child’s teeth.

  • White and brown spots on your child’s teeth are early signs of cavities.
  • Black spots, and holes in your child’s tooth are signs of moderate to severe tooth decay.

When signs of moderate to severe tooth decay are visible, it is wise to schedule a visit with your dental provider, to prevent the infection from spreading.

Other signs to look out for that may imply your child is suffering from dental decay:

  • Trouble focusing in class
  • Avoids eating hard foods
  • Complains about pain around their face, but cannot identify where, or
  • Struggles staying asleep through the night.

Signs of Gum Disease

If you have:

  • Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
  • Tender/sore gums
  • Persistent bad breath, or
  • Difficulty flossing

These are signs of gum disease, your dental provider may recommend the intervention of a deep cleaning and following that procedure, more frequent cleanings.

Signs of Bone Loss

If you experience:

  • Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing,
  • Tender/sore gums,
  • Persistent bad breath,
  • Difficulty flossing,
  • Recession of the gums, (this is noted by visible space in between your teeth),
  • Tooth sensitivity when drinking cold water, and
  • Loosening of teeth.

Your dental provider may recommend the intervention of a deep cleaning and following that procedure, more frequent cleanings.

Signs of Recurrent Cavities or Damage to Nerve of Tooth

It is possible for new cavities to form on teeth that have previously been treated for dental decay. Signs to look out for are:

  • Pain/sensitivity to eating sugary or hot foods.
  • Lingering pain for more than 10 seconds
  • A piece of filling has broken off
  • Food or floss gets caught around a filling

Teeth Grinding

If you suffer from:

  • Sore cheek muscles
  • Sore jaw
  • Sensitive teeth

…and you notice the length of your teeth shortening, you may be grinding or clenching. Let your dental provider know of these signs so that they can provide or recommend a preventive appliance to protect your teeth.