Common symptoms of cerebral palsy such as muscle weakness and drooling can make it difficult for your child to clean their teeth thoroughly. Children with cerebral palsy also often have crowded teeth, which provide more places for food debris to build up. Additionally, they may take longer to chew and swallow food, which increases the amount of time food sugars linger in their mouth.
Here's an overview of some of the dental health problems commonly experienced by children with cerebral palsy and how a dentist can support your child to maintain their oral health:
Dental Problems Affecting Children With Cerebral Palsy
The following dental problems are commonly seen in children with cerebral palsy:
Gum disease occurs when bacteria in your child's mouth binds with food debris to form plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that coats teeth and gradually breaks down the protective layer of enamel.
It also causes an inflammatory response that can damage your child's gum tissue, causing swelling and receding gums. Taking longer to eat a meal can leave your child with high levels of bacteria in their mouth as bacteria feed on food particles, but there are ways to tackle the bacteria.
You child's dentist can prescribe fluoride gel, which is rubbed onto your child's teeth and forms a protective coating. They may also recommend a xylitol treatment regime to reduce the number of bacteria in your child's mouth. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that can create an inhospitable environment for bacteria and cause them to die off.
If it's difficult for your child to thoroughly clean their teeth, they will be at an increased risk of developing dental decay. Acid is produced as a waste product of bacteria and attacks the surfaces of your child's teeth. Gradually, decay sets in and can leave your child in pain without you being aware of it.
You can reduce the amount of food available to the bacteria in your child's mouth by reducing the amount of refined carbohydrates in their diet. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and processed cereals, begin to break down in the mouth, but whole grains don't begin to break down until they reach the stomach.
Your dentist can help by giving your child's teeth a scale and polish a few times a year to remove plaque and tartar before too much damage is done. They can also advise you on the types of brushing aids that may help. For example, using a toothbrush with a weighted handle can force the muscles in your child's hand to engage more fully.
Overcrowding can make chewing and biting difficult and increase drooling. It can also make thorough teeth cleaning difficult and leave your child susceptible to damaging their teeth when eating. A dentist can treat overcrowding by removing some of your child's teeth or by fitting your child with braces. The braces would have to be fixed as removable braces would pose a choking hazard, but they are an effective way of improving the alignment of your child's teeth.
If you're concerned about the impact of cerebral palsy on your child's dental health, schedule a consultation with their dentist as soon as possible. Contact a company such as Absolute Smiles to learn more.