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Dental care for disabled kids

Pre-school children with disabilities should have their teeth cleaned with fluoridated toothpaste, according to research.

Although the general recommendation is that children should not use fluoridated toothpaste, children with a disability are an exception, the Trinity College Dublin research suggests.

The largest study of its kind carried out in Ireland was led by Prof June Nunn and Dr Darius Sagheri, of the Special Care Dentistry Unit at the Dublin Dental University Hospital. They found that decay started to become evident after the age of three.

"Up to three years of age there was virtually no dental decay in these children. But once you got over that threshold that's when decay started to develop," they pointed out, "and when they have decay it tends to remain untreated.

"The recommendation here in Ireland is that children under the age of two shouldn't be using fluoridated toothpaste. However, given the vulnerability of these children, and the fact that dental care can take years to develop, we need to start protection early."

Children with good strong teeth are able to chew a wider variety of foods for healthy nutrition. A child's speech development can also be helped.

If possible children should clean their own teeth, but some will not be able to do so on their own.

The advice is that daily oral care be done in any well-lit room that is convenient.

There are a number of positions you can use to clean the child's teeth. In any position, it's important to support the child's head.

Be careful to avoid choking or gagging if the child's head is tilted back.

There are a number of reasons why children with disabilities are often more prone to dental disease.

They include:

- Oral conditions -- some genetic disorders or very high fevers in very young children can cause defects in tooth enamel that make the enamel prone to decay.

- Gum problems often occur in children with Down syndrome.

- Children who cannot chew properly cannot benefit from the natural cleaning action of the tongue, cheek and lip muscles.

- Children who have difficulty chewing and swallowing may often eat pureed foods, which tend to stick to their teeth.

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