Down syndrome is one the most common chromosomal conditions in the world, and approximately 1 of every 700 children in the United States is born with it. That means there are a large number of these sweet kiddos who need dental and orthodontic care from an experienced and compassionate team. Because, as with every other child, children with Down syndrome will experience far better health if they receive regular dental checkups and cleanings, and orthodontic treatment when needed.
Young patients with Down syndrome often have additional dental and orthodontic concerns and will benefit from teams that are experienced in treating patients with special needs. At Jungle Roots, we believe that every child is special, and every child has different needs. We want to provide a safe and comfortable experience for every single child that enters our doors, so they will be happy to call us our dental home and look forward to their appointments. A dental home is just as vitally important for children with special needs. It also provides additional benefits if orthodontic care becomes necessary, as your child will already feel comfortable with us. To provide this, our team is trained and experienced in strategies to give your child the best possible dental experience in our office.
When to Make a Dental or Orthodontic Appointment
As with any other child, it is recommended that every patient, including patients with any type of special need, see a dentist by their first birthday and regularly thereafter to maintain optimal dental health, and to monitor for tooth formation issues and unusual eruption patterns. It is equally important for parents and caretakers to bring their child in for an orthodontic consultation by age 7 to determine if and when treatment is necessary. At Jungle Roots, regardless of circumstance, every child’s orthodontic treatment is customized based on the orthodontic condition that needs to be addressed, as well as a child’s dental and mental maturity in order to best serve the patient and achieve optimal orthodontic results.
Recent studies have revealed that young patients with Down syndrome receive less help with brushing and using fluoride and actually visit the dentist less under the age of five than other children. Oral care is neglected more than any aspect of overall healthcare. In fact, according to the journal Pediatrics, “dental care is the leading unmet health care need among children with Down syndrome.”
Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment
Children who have Down syndrome can benefit from dental and orthodontic interventions to remedy problems with their teeth, jaws, and alignment. Stemming largely from skeletal differences in the face, Down syndrome commonly results in smaller bridges of the nose, maxilla, and bones in the mid-face area. It may also create difficulty with the movements necessary for swallowing and speaking. Additional oral considerations common to these children include delayed tooth eruption, missing teeth, hypocalcification, microdontia, wide spaces between the teeth, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, malocclusion, and gingivitis. And, while in general, older children and young adults with Down syndrome have fewer dental caries than non-DS children, the opposite is true with nursing and bottle-fed children under age four, since they often have trouble suckling and swallowing properly, leaving their brand-new baby teeth exposed to prolonged contact with sugary breastmilk or formula, leading to caries. An excellent team will be able to address these issues while considering other conditions that may impact the course of treatment, such as weak muscle tone, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, behavioral issues, and developmental delays.
Here at Jungle Roots, we take a conservative approach to orthodontic care with personalized goals for every patient. We offer a complimentary orthodontic consultation, during which all records are collected and discussed, and a comprehensive smile analysis is conducted. With all of this information, we will create a custom treatment plan together.
We offer options for child orthodontic care, including early preventive treatment which addresses the child’s entire dentition in order to improve or prevent unfavorable growth patterns. Our comprehensive treatment option would target proper alignment and the healthy function of jaws and teeth. And when appropriate, a limited treatment option may be used, which addresses single issues or a particular treatment goal that does not involve the child’s entire dentition.
Orthodontic treatments have been shown to result in some remarkable improvements for young patients with Down syndrome. Orthodontic intervention can successfully treat issues such as:
Teeth being too far apart or crowding
Quality of speech
Improved chewing and swallowing
Tongue position/tongue thrusting
Bruxism (grinding teeth)
Orthopedic appliances, as well as traditional braces, have been successful treatment solutions for patients with Down syndrome. In addition, two phases of treatment work well for patients with Down syndrome. Again, we always assess a patient’s needs, as well as optimal timing based on dental and mental maturity, and we may advise to wait until certain milestones have been reached before starting orthodontic treatment.
We utilize technologies that make the entire orthodontic process easier. Some are:
Impressions using quick-set materials with fun flavors (which is especially useful for those with a strong gag reflex)
Easy bonding of brackets that is more comfortable
High-memory wires that allow a longer interval between appointments
Self-ligating brackets that allow a more patient-friendly appointment
Things to consider before dental or orthodontic treatment begins:
It is often a good idea to schedule appointments for patients with any kind of special need as early in the day as possible to help ensure there is very little waiting time, and everyone is ready, fresh, and alert.
It is helpful if we receive a full medical and dental history ahead of your child’s first appointment. This information will allow us to prepare our team accordingly and implement the best strategies to ensure your child’s comfort. Our team strives to be as upbeat, friendly, caring, and positive as possible to help make your child’s visit a good one. As a board-certified pediatric dentist, Dr. Culp has over twenty years of experience in handling a wide variety of children’s needs, including treating children with Down syndrome. We have years of experience and training in compassionate and calming techniques, and we will use all available information to strategize to minimize difficulties your child might face at appointments.
Here are examples of ways we will use our training and experience, combined with the information you provide to create the best and smoothest possible experience for you and your child:
Children with Down syndrome may have a higher incidence of certain difficulties when seeking dental and orthodontic treatment. Here are some examples; a highly pronounced gag reflex is common in patients with Down syndrome, their balance may be reduced, requiring advance notice anytime the dental chair is moved, they may have trouble identifying pain or talking about it and, in response to this, they may shy away from treatment or simply refuse to be treated. At Jungle Roots, we have lots of techniques and tools at our disposal in order to provide a safe and comfortable environment for every patient. Creating a very positive relationship with us at an early age may also minimize difficulties. As mentioned before, we do have many patient management tools at our disposal to provide the best experience possible.
If there are issues with behavior, please let us know what has worked at home or for teachers or other professionals. You know your child best! With this information, we can try to implement those strategies if possible, or combine them with other methods.
Although some children with Down syndrome have difficulty speaking and understanding language, we will always do our best to speak to them in a way they can understand, allowing enough time for them to process what is being conveyed. We will also listen to your child and pay attention to their non-verbal cues. We are happy to do so, and this will enhance the relationship between us, helping your child to feel safe and comfortable.
If your child has hearing loss or sensory issues, we can take some time to adjust the volume on background music, televisions, or other sounds. It may be helpful to turn hearing aids up or down to suit the child’s comfort levels when noisy equipment is in use.
There are many treatments available that can contribute to the improvement of your child’s quality of life. These should be explored as early as possible to make the best possible impact -- particularly orthodontic treatment.
We would be happy to meet with your family for a complimentary orthodontic consultation to discuss how we can help meet the needs of your child. It would be our privilege to be your child’s dental home, and orthodontic services are often a valuable extension to dental services in a child’s overall dental health. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to set up an appointment. We look forward to seeing your child’s joyful smile!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.