Good dental care is an important part of the development of any child, but it is especially critical for children with Down syndrome. A big factor in making this process successful is developing a close working relationship with the child's dentist. Below are several things that caregivers can do to make the relationship successful and help provide a child with Down syndrome with the best care possible:
Choose the right dentist
Finding the ideal dentist for your child involves careful research and seeking out those with an understanding of special needs dentistry. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) can provide names of dentists in your locale who are able to best help your child. The AAPD sponsors residencies in pediatric dentistry, and as part of their two-year experience, resident dentists learn how to work with children with disabilities. Dentists who have earned the pediatric dentist credential can be trusted to provide the best of care for your child with Down syndrome.
In addition, when searching for a dentist, don't hesitate to contact the dental office and ask to speak with the dentist; be sure to ask them about their experience in working with special needs patients and gauge their level of compassion and patience. Spending a few minutes on the phone can provide you with reassurance that your choice in dentists is the right one.
Allow for plenty of time
Once you have made a choice of dentists, you will want to schedule the first appointment. However, when scheduling the appointment, try to obtain an appointment as early as possible in the morning. Early appointments are generally quieter, less hectic and more conducive to keeping your child calm. Plus, the office staff will be "fresh" and able to better help meet your child's needs.
If possible, also ask the dentist to provide a wider appointment window to avoid the need to rush or make your child feel hurried. Kids with Down syndrome are better able to cope if they can be given time to ease into the appointment and then be provided time to personally debrief.
Keep the interaction personal and safe
Once your child arrives for their appointment, take time to introduce them to each office staff member you meet, including the receptionist, dental assistant, and hygienist. Building trust isn't as instantaneous for a child with Down syndrome as it may be for you, and spending a few minutes in informal conversation can ease your child's mind.
When your child is finally in the dental chair, ask the dentist or their assistant to orient them to their new surroundings. Showing a child with Down syndrome the operation of the equipment can help alleviate anxiety about the unknown and also feed their natural curiosity. In addition, ask the staff to tell your child ahead of time as to what they plan to do; if at all possible, prevent your child from being surprised by any experiences that might be unpleasant, especially.
Know what conditions to discuss
There are several conditions that can negatively affect the oral health of your child with Down syndrome and that should be discussed during the first appointment:
Hypotonia - This refers to a loss of muscle tone and strength in the jaws and is a common condition for many persons with Down syndrome. Your child's dentist can provide constructive advice on how to treat this condition and prevent speech problems and other related issues.
Periodontal disease - Gum inflammation is common amongst the non-Down syndrome population, but it brings a set of increased problems to individuals with Down syndrome. Since Down syndrome is associated with a decrease in immune system capability, periodontal disease can be more serious and difficult to treat. Ask the dentist on how to best prevent gum disease from becoming an issue for your child.
Cardiac defects - Heart-related problems are prevalent among Down syndrome patients, and since dental treatment can aggravate cardiac defects, it is vital to ask your dentist about how treatment side-effects can be minimized. They may wish to prescribe an antibiotic to take ahead of the visit to prevent bacterial infections in cardiac tissue, for example.
For more information, contact a dental office like Family Dental Center TriCities, PC.