Special Needs’ Kids and Dental Care
Guest blog contributed by the Children’s Dental Health Project
For Nicole Brown and her 13-year-old daughter, Camryn Cunningham, visits to the dentist were once a grueling battle. Camryn, who has autism spectrum disorder, was panicked by the strange tools and unfamiliar routine, reports the New York Times. However, after Brown found a pediatric dentist who accommodated Camryn’s needs, their visits were no longer defined by challenges. Camryn learned to sit through the dental exams and even moved on to orthodontics, thanks to the help of a patient staff.
Brown’s story echoes those of families across the country who struggle to support the dental health of their children with special developmental and physical needs. A pediatric dentist in Colorado explained, “With the increase of autism spectrum disorder patients out there, there are not enough pediatric dentists to see everyone.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a new handout that can help parents who have a child with special needs find a dentist. It can be downloaded from this web page and it’s available in English or Spanish.
The health of children’s teeth is imperative when considering that the most common chronic disease of early childhood is tooth decay — 5 times more common than asthma. Nearly one-quarter of preschool-age children have experienced tooth decay, and 50% of kids have had a cavity by the time they enter their teens.
Regardless of a child’s physical and developmental status, dental health plays a key role in his or her overall health. Untreated tooth decay can lead to hospital visits for dental pain, school absences and lost time at work for parents. When assessing the overall health of children, families and care providers must “think teeth.”
If your organization works with families or children, download and share the CMS handout today to ensure that children with special needs get the dental care they deserve.