Cerebral Palsy and Dental Care
Cerebral palsy doesn’t cause oral abnormalities on its own, but children with cerebral palsy can be more susceptible to oral hygiene conditions and complications than the general population. Cerebral palsy dental care is an important part of managing your child’s life. With routine dental checkups and regularly practiced oral care at home, your child can maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Why Are Children with Cerebral Palsy at Risk for Oral Health Issues?
While cerebral palsy itself does not directly cause dental problems, there are some cerebral palsy dental considerations, and the underlying symptoms of CP can contribute to certain issues and complications. Of course, cerebral palsy can affect children very differently, which is why dental issues can also vary depending on the individual child. The following are some examples of the ways in which children with cerebral palsy are more prone to experiencing oral health issues:
- Mouth trauma. Nearly half of all children with cerebral palsy have experienced a seizure. Frequent seizures can make a child more at risk of grinding their teeth and biting their lips and cheeks. This can damage their teeth or cause them to become crowded, misshapen, and misaligned, also known as malocclusion.
- Decay or cavities. There are several ways in which symptoms of cerebral palsy may increase the risk of plaque buildup, and tooth decay, including:
- Children who are unable to control their facial muscles often have trouble swallowing (dysphagia) and chewing or mouth and tongue sensitivity. Both can make it challenging to brush, floss, rinse, and eliminate excess food in the mouth after eating.
- Many children with CP have difficulty holding a toothbrush or flossing properly, which means teeth may not be cleaned as well as they should be.
- Gastrointestinal reflux is somewhat common for children with CP, and the frequent vomiting it may induce can create a heightened risk for plaque and tooth decay.
- Certain medications for cerebral palsy can be sugary, which may stick to tooth enamel, especially for children who have trouble swallowing or chewing and therefore keep the medicine in their mouth for longer than necessary.
- Because it can take kids with CP longer to eat a meal, food stays in the mouth longer, which can increase the potential for cavities.
- Misalignment of the bite. It’s not uncommon in kids with CP for the bottom teeth to rest outside of the upper teeth. In some cases, this can cause a misalignment of the teeth, drooling, and difficulty with chewing and biting.
- Periodontal disease. Poor dental hygiene habits, malocclusion, and various physical limitations can all contribute to periodontal disease in children with CP. Additionally, some medications that are used to control CP symptoms can cause gingival hyperplasia, causing the gums to overgrow.
Visiting the Dentist with Your Child
Some parents of children with CP may be worried about trips to the dentist, especially for children who have difficulty opening their mouths, swallowing, or biting. Many dental providers have experience with—and even specialize in—giving care to kids with special needs. They’re required to undergo safety training, including:
- Administering CPR
- Properly monitoring breathing and clearing breathing pathways
- Supporting involuntary body movements
- Monitoring seizure status or acid reflux
- Controlling shakes and seizures
- Reducing the risk of aspiration
- Accommodating children in wheelchairs
These specialized dental providers also offer emotional support, which is incredibly important for children with CP who may have difficulty communicating their discomfort. Their training and experience allow them to establish a relationship of trust and give commands in a friendly yet clear way so that children feel at ease in a relaxing and supportive environment.
Oral Care at Home
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children should receive oral care even before they have their first teeth, which parents can do by wiping down their gums with a warm cloth. Not only will this clean their mouth, but it will also allow them to get used to the feeling of having their mouth cleaned, which can create a more positive response as they get older.
The following are some helpful tips to incorporate into your child’s home oral healthcare routine:
- Opt for electric toothbrushes and toothpick floss sticks, which can be easier to use for children with CP than their traditional counterparts.
- Purchase fluoridated toothpaste made for children with sensitive teeth and gums.
- Use a dry mouth spray, if necessary.
- Pay close attention to rinsing, if this is possible for your child, which can help keep your child’s mouth clean.
- Monitor daily dental hygiene habits closely, including your child’s sugar intake.
- Avoid giving oral care at times when your child is feeling upset or experiencing stress
- Make your child’s oral care a fun activity, including games and positive reinforcement or a reward system, such as star stickers.
Experienced Cerebral Palsy Attorneys Who Care About Your Family
Many instances of cerebral palsy could have been avoided and resulted from the negligence of a doctor, hospital, or other medical professionals. If you believe that your child’s cerebral palsy was the result of malpractice, we’re here to help.
The experienced legal and medical team of Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs is here to help you seek the justice and resources necessary to secure the brightest future possible for your child. Contact us today to discuss your potential case.
Claire Surles, RN
Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO