Tips and Tricks for Good Dental Health
Spring has sprung here in Vermont and it’s a great time to make sure the whole family is up to date on dental exams and cleanings. Not only is having a healthy mouth important for speaking, learning, eating, and smiling, it’s also important for overall health. There are some special considerations for people with disabilities, but by establishing a “dental home” early in life and following a daily oral care routine, everybody can enjoy the benefits of a healthy mouth!
Baby teeth may have delayed eruption (teeth come in later), with the first tooth appearing up to age two. All baby teeth are usually erupted by age five. Also, baby teeth may be lost later, usually by age 15. Delayed eruption can lead to malocclusion.
Malocclusion means that teeth don’t line up perfectly. It is found in most people with Down syndrome because of the delayed eruption of adult teeth and the smaller size of the lower jaw. Malocclusion can make it harder to keep teeth clean but your dental health care provider can give you ideas about how to make cleaning your teeth easier.
Mouth breathing is exactly what it sounds like, breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. This happens a lot for people with down syndrome because of smaller nasal passages. Mouth breathing can dry out the mouth and decrease saliva production. Saliva is important for neutralizing acid and helping to wash away bacteria; without it, the chances of getting tooth decay goes up.
People with Down syndrome often have a strong gag reflex due to the placement of the tongue and anxiety about their mouths being touched. Sometimes scheduling an early morning appointment (before eating or drinking) can help.
Tips for your trip to the dental office
Share with the dental office team the best way to communicate with you and make the appointment for the time of day that works best for you.
If you have any medical concerns, including heart problems, tell the dental office before the visit.
Consider silver diamine fluoride (SDF) as a treatment option. SDF is a liquid medication that can help stop dental decay and pain without using needles or drills. It turns the area of decay black and may not be useful in every case, but it can be a great treatment option in certain situations and may help avoid treatment under general or local anesthesia. See this SDF fact sheet for more information.
Tips for homecare
Plaque is that white sticky stuff that builds up on our teeth throughout the day. Bacteria live in plaque and when we eat food (especially food with a lot of sugar) the bacteria feed on it, break down, and produce acid which harms teeth. Help keep teeth healthy by removing plaque by brushing with fluoridated toothpaste and flossing.
It’s ideal if you can brush your teeth for a full two minutes. Set a timer or brush your teeth while listening to a song or watching a funny cat video on YouTube!
A lot of medications cause dry mouth (lack of saliva) and contain sugar. When possible, ask for sugar-free medications and rinse your mouth with water or brush after taking the medication.
For information about where to find a dentist call 211.