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Oral Health for Children

For parents and carers of children with additional needs accessing the right dental care at the right time is especially important.
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.
In some cases specialist dental care will be the most appropriate and your Dentist or GP should help you to find the right service for your child.

Having an additional need can make dental care particularly important and also more tricky.
This can be because;

• Anxiety may make it very stressful going to the dentist
• They may struggle to cooperate with instructions from the dentist
• They may be taking medicines that contain sugar, which can cause tooth decay
• Medicines can cause a dry mouth, which can put the teeth at risk of decay
• They may find it hard to tolerate having a toothbrush in their mouth
• They may have a sensitive gag/choking reflex
• Some children may tend to keep food in their mouth for a long time.
• Difficulty in clearing leftover food from around their teeth and gums
• Having a strong preference for sweet food and drinks, or food of a particular colour or texture, and will eat little else
• Dribbling can cause sore skin and mouth infections
• Children with gastric reflux produce acid that can cause decay

It may be one of these reasons or a number of other that make it hard for your child to access dental care.
Health services recognise this and should support your child to get the care they need

Things You Can Do To Help

If you are the parent of carer of a child or young person with additional needs it is likely you are more than used to acting as their ‘voice’ to get them what they need.
When accessing dental care the adaptations children and young people will need varies greatly.

It may be clear that your young person’s additional needs mean they will need specialist dental care – you can ask your GP or your family dentist to refer you for this. This might mean attending a specialist clinic or even home visits if necessary

However many children and young people will be able to attend your family dentist if their needs are treated sensitively.
You can discuss this with your dentist. There are steps that can be taken that may help your child have a positive experience at the dentist.
• Ask the dentist for a double appointment to allow time to settle your child
• Ask them to explain what will happen step by step at your child’s pace
• If your child struggles with being touched let the dentist know in advance
• If they are sensitive to sounds and smells ask the dentist if any alternative is available to products used. You could use headphones to block out noise / play music they enjoy
• If your child is overwhelmed you should not worry about stepping in and asking for a break or to come back another time

In between dental appointments care of your child’s teeth is very important.
It may be hard to clean their teeth because of physical problems or because of behavioural challenges – ask your dentist for advice on this, you can also contact the numbers below to discuss this further.
There are products designed to overcome individual challenges that your health care team may be able to suggest
This leaflet has good information about establishing a tooth care routine that is personalised to an individuals particular needs here

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. CLICK HERE

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