Importance of Oral Health

What is oral hygiene?
Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping your mouth healthy by brushing, flossing, cleaning your tongue, and visiting the dentist every six months. Not only your teeth, but your gums and tongue are an important part of your mouth. We need to keep all of these parts of our mouth clean and healthy for a beautiful smile. Without oral hygiene, food can build up and eventually cause cavities. These cavities can lead to severe pain and discomfort.

What causes cavities?
Cavities are caused by a combination of the sugar we eat, the bacteria in our mouths and poor oral hygiene. They start out small and can only be seen in x-rays, but as time goes on they can grow to become quite large and painful. By going to a dentist every six months, cavities can be identified through x-rays and other clinical tests early on so that they can be treated easily. Certain populations are more prone to getting cavities because of a multitude of reasons, some being their diet including a lot of sugar, etc.

Why is the special needs community more prone to cavities?
Here are just a few of the reasons:

1. Due to certain medical conditions, many special needs individuals have to take different medications throughout the day. As many of these individuals cannot swallow pills, he or she takes her medication in a liquid form. These liquid medications have a lot of added sugar to make them taste good. Sugar can easily cause cavities if there is not proper oral hygiene.

2. Some medications that this population takes can cause them to have dry mouth. Saliva is actually one of the body’s natural fighters against cavities. Without enough saliva, it is easier for plaque and sugary substances to stick to teeth and cause cavities.

3. Many individuals with special needs will only eat certain foods- some will only tolerate carbohydrates like crackers and breads while others will love to indulge in sweeter snacks like cookies. These foods have high amounts of sugar in them and by having them every day, several times a day, it puts the individual at a high risk of developing cavities. This is a big problem for individuals on the Autism Spectrum who only tolerate certain foods and even use certain high sugar snacks for rewards. The constant eating of the high sugar foods makes them at risk of developing cavities.

4. Difficult to brush- for many individuals with special needs, they might not have the abilities to brush on their own with traditional toothbrushes. Additionally, the parent or caregiver might not be able to brush due to physical constraints or behavior concerns.

5. An individual might be experiencing pain or discomfort with a tooth and be unable to voice the problem which leads to a small cavity growing to a more severe one.

6. The special needs individual might have cavities that the parents or caregiver can identify, however he or she is unable to find a dentist who is able to handle the individual’s special health care needs.

The Care Giver’s Role

Oral hygiene in individuals with disabilities is especially important because of their lack of ability to take care of their own teeth. For example, cerebral palsy is a disorder of muscle movement, and muscle tone. These individuals have impaired movement and exaggerated reflexes.  The caregiver becomes a pivotal part in their oral hygiene. With brushing and regular visits to the dentist, the majority of dental problems can be completely prevented. You as the caregiver can learn simple ways to modify brushing with different tools, instruments, and positioning.  Just simply brushing can help prevent so many problems. The same is true for taking your special needs client to the dentist. Using this website, you can find the right dentists that have the best knowledge and skills to care for your child’s or client’s needs. You can help prevent cavities and other dental problems, saving your client unnecessary pain and stress.