Developmental disabilities may become known in childhood or adolescence and usually lasts a lifetime; down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities are a few examples. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, persons having developmental disabilities face increased oral health problems because of a host of physical, mental and financial challenges. The dental problems can cause pain, issues with eating and infection, ultimately leading to critical long-term medical problems. The disabled require special attention and assistance to guarantee proper dental care, but only a few dentists are trained and able to deal with these specific set of clients.

Caring for the disabled requires special adaptation and skills learned through daily living. Dentists need to be patient, keen, kind and strategic in their operations, especially when caring for this percentage of the populous. Due to the varied presentations of the developmental disability, the dentists must be flexible and proactive in giving care. Efforts have been made to improve the care offered to this set of people, so they too can have good dental care. 

A vast number of disabled persons have cavities and periodontitis that may have never been previously treated; some have lost a percentage of their permanent dentition (partial edentulism) even before adulthood. Tooth loss is a common dental issue. Preventing tooth loss can be quite the challenge for people who are not disabled, thus the difficulty is that much greater for those who are. 

The disabled persons will have difficulty with oral hygiene for a variety of reasons. These include the following:

  • Some are not able to grasp their toothbrush properly and may not understand the process brushing and flossing – they will require repetitive reinforcement to encourage learning, as well as practical assistance.
  • Others are able to carry out the process but are not willing to do it as often as recommended as they do not recognize its importance, again, reinforcement becomes important.
  • Caregivers may find it a great challenge to adequately provide mouth care to their loved ones with a severe developmental disability that may influence resistance and violent outbursts when attempts are made to meet their hygienic needs. These individuals may neglect their own personal hygiene as it has no value to them.
  • While these individuals and their caregivers do what they can to provide mouth care, they are often unable to afford professional dental care. This will prevent or delay early recognition and treatment of dental problems.   
  • Some caregivers need assistance in meeting the oral hygienic needs of their loved ones.
  • Bottle feeding that has been prolonged, puts a person at risk to developing cavities, this is the case for some individuals who are disabled.
  • Certain medications used by clients with a developmental disability increases chances of dental problems; for example, antihistamines, asthma inhalers, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, antihypertensive drugs, and antidepressants.
  • Poor eating habits contribute to poor dental hygiene, especially if mouth care is inadequate. Frequent snacking on sugary foods is a dangerous practice.

It’s important to find a qualified dentist who is experienced in dealing with dental issues on a variety of patients types. Dr. Djuric is one of the leading dentists in the Pensacola / Perdido area. Feel free to give our office a call if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment: (850) 542-442.