Dental care for the patient with Down syndrome can be achieved in the general practitioner's office in most instances with minor adaptations. Although this population has some unique dental care needs, few patients require special facilities in order to receive dental treatment. Adequate dental health care for persons with developmental disabilities is a major unmet health need.- From Dental Care for the Patient
with Down Syndrome
by Dr. Elizabeth S. Pilcher
I was so glad to find an explanation of the unique dental care needs and considerations specific to the patient with Ds that encouraged practitioners, parents and patients to expect comprehensive care in a traditional setting (with minor modifications, if necessary). Here's a link to Dr. Pilcher's article.
This morning Bridget had her first dental appointment, and she did great! She's been giving me a run for my money recently with her curiosity, energy and general willfulness (she's so TWO! and she woke up at 5:30 a.m. today--much earlier than usual), so I was a little concerned about how cooperative she would be with the dentist. The issue was more the waiting room than the actual exam, but that is another story all together :).
Our pediatric dentist was wonderful with her. He talked to her in just the same way he talked to our other children when they were her age. He was patient and deliberate, and knew just how to get the job done quickly and without upsetting Bridget. She sat in my lap (with her chest against mine) and he sat across from me. He leaned her head back onto his lap, which provides the best vantage point to view all the teeth.
He doesn't know Bridget at all, but he didn't seem to have pre-conceived notions about how she would behave, whether she could understand what he was saying, etc. In fact, he seemed to presume competence...which is absolutely the right way to go. Kudos to Dr. Wenger!
He explained that teeth (and gums) are a big issue in children with Down syndrome. I already knew that the teeth in people with Ds are often delayed coming in, arrive in an unpredictable order, and come in all shapes and sizes. I have not researched dental issues in-depth until just recently. I knew that I needed to pay special care to cleaning Bridget's teeth, but she hasn't had them all that long :). I figured I'd deal with other issues as they arrive, which has been my approach with most things related to Bridget having Down syndrome.
Today I learned that people with Down syndrome are especially prone to gum disease and are sometimes missing baby teeth or permanent teeth. Bridget does not have her eye teeth yet. Apparently, they may never come in. The dentist said while it is possible that they just haven't erupted yet, he thinks it is more likely that they are missing. He must have noticed the concerned look on my face, because he quickly followed by saying that it is something that can be taken care of fairly easily in an orthodontic setting. He feels that Bridget is doing great, that we are doing a good job of cleaning her teeth, and that her teeth look very healthy.
As with everything else, there is a huge range in the dental health of individuals with Ds. Proper preventative care and appropriate treatment are hugely beneficial for anyone.
We had a positive experience today, which is a huge relief...and another reason to be grateful for compassionate, skilled health care providers and another reason to never underestimate my youngest child...