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Oral Health for Children with Additional Needs

Having healthy teeth and gums is important and can have a big impact on general health and quality of life. Children and young people with additional needs may need some extra support keeping their teeth healthy and accessing the right dental care, at the right time. 

Children and young people with additional needs have the same entitlement to dental care as all children and services should make adjustments to achieve this where possible.

Some children and young people may not be able to express the fact that they have toothache and therefore their discomfort could be misunderstood or missed. For this reason establishing a good dental health routine is important.

Sometimes specialist dental care will be the most appropriate and your dentist or GP can help find the right service for your child.

  • Start brushing teeth as soon as they come through with a fluoride toothpaste 1350-1500 ppm and make it part of your child’s routine.

    Support your child/young person with tooth brushing, breaking it down into small steps.

    Reduce sugar intake, especially in between meals and ask your doctor/pharmacist for sugar free medicines.

    Offer water or milk to drink where possible.

    Think of rewards such as a favourite activity rather than offering food, sweets or snacks.

    Mouth and dental care is particularly important in children and young people who are tube fed.

    There are unflavoured toothpastes available which are non foaming and 3 sided toothbrushes which may also be helpful for some children.

  • When accessing dental care children and young people with additional needs require individualised care which can be discussed with your dentist before the appointment.

    The dentist needs to know about your child’s/young person’s medical history, their developmental needs and how they communicate. If your child/young person struggles with being touched or if they are sensitive to sounds and smells ask the dentist how this could be managed. If your child/young person has a health passport this should be shared with the dental team.

  • Prepare your child or young person for the appointment; a book/social story/video about visiting the dentist might be helpful.

    Think about the timing of the appointment and the accessibility of the building. A visit just to the building might reduce anxiety on the day of the appointment.

    If your child/young person requires any communication aids or a visual timetable, have these ready and available.

    Think about offering headphones to block out noise and play music that your child or young person might enjoy.

    Ask the dentist for a double appointment to allow time to settle your child/young person and to explain what will happen step by step at their pace.

    If your child or young person is overwhelmed you should not worry about stepping in and asking for a break or to come back another time.

Who Can Help?

In between dental appointments the care of your child’s/young person’s teeth is very important. Although this might be more difficult because of physical problems or other challenges there are a variety of ways in which you can support your child to have healthy teeth and gums.

Ask your dentist for advice on this or you can also contact Just One Number 0300 300 0123 to discuss this further.

In Norfolk the Heron website also has details of specialist dental services.

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