If your child has special needs, whether due to physical limitations, behavioral issues, or mental challenges, you’re likely used to some extra challenges in life. Starting orthodontic treatment for any child can be tricky, so you may be understandably anxious about having your child with special needs in braces or Invisalign. But with the right support, your child can be on their way to a better smile and healthier teeth.
Kids with Special Needs and Orthodontics
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry defines special needs as “any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional impairment that requires medical management, healthcare intervention, and/or use of specialized services or programs.” Kids with autism, Down syndrome, or learning disabilities will most likely have a harder time than others during orthodontic appointments and will struggle to properly care for their orthodontic appliances.
The catch 22 in these cases is kids with special needs often have more of a need for orthodontic treatment due to severe crookedness and misaligned bites. These problems can begin early as the result of repetitive behavioral issues like thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting, or self-injury.
While many parents will be understandably intimidated by the idea of having their child with special needs start orthodontic treatment, it’s important to have a full consultation and to see which treatment plan is necessary. By getting straight teeth, your child could avoid needing more severe corrections that will be even more difficult in the future.
Getting Through Appointments
One of the biggest challenges kids with special needs face when starting orthodontic treatment is the appointments. Kids with special needs often have sensory issues and can feel overwhelmed due to unpleasant touches, sounds, bright lights, and intense smells. The typical initial orthodontic appointment used to be very challenging for kids with special needs due to the process of gathering impressions. Thanks to new devices such as the iTero scanner, impressions can often be replaced with digital images, eliminating this stress factor during the exam.
Adjustment appointments will involve some poking and prodding to assess treatment progress and to replace wires or bands. It helps to visit during less busy hours and special accommodations can also be made for longer appointments.
One way you can assist in this process is to prepare your child beforehand by explaining what to expect from appointments. You can use visuals to help your child understand.
Taking Care of Braces or Invisalign
Parents of kids with special needs who have braces will need to be extra vigilant about making sure their child is brushing and flossing properly. Kids with autism in particular can find it unpleasant to brush their teeth so you may have to implement a special reward system or supervise them when they brush their teeth. Be sure to apply plenty of dental wax so they avoid unpleasant sores from their braces.
If your child qualifies for Invisalign, the process may be easier since the aligners are more comfortable. The Invisalign Teen system will also help ensure your child is wearing their aligners the right amount of time each day.
To learn more about orthodontic treatment for kids with special needs, contact Charleston Orthodontic Specialists today!