Of the approximately 4 million babies born in the United States each year, up to 2000 will be diagnosed with spina bifida. This developmental disorder is centered around the spine and the membranes surrounding it, which fail to correctly close while the baby is in the womb. While the condition primarily affects your child's mobility, can spina bifida impact your child's ability to receive a high standard of dental care?
Your Child's Dental Health
Although spina bifida doesn't directly affect your child's dental health, it can still play a role of sorts in terms of your child's teeth and their ability to access dental services. Your child has special needs, which means that you might want to find a special needs dentist. The dentist and their staff have specific training and equipment, This even covers aspects of your child's care that may not have even occurred to you, such as the possibility that your child has a latex allergy (which is common in people with spina bifida). So, special needs dentistry for children with spina bifida can even cover the material of the surgical gloves the dentist wears.
Spina Bifida and Xerostomia
One of the primary dental concerns for children with spina bifida is any prescribed medication that they might be taking. These can include anticholinergics for neurogenic bladder dysfunction, and antispasmodic medications, amongst others. An unfortunate side effect of these medicines can be xerostomia (dry mouth). Xerostomia decreases saliva production, which is problematic since saliva acts as a buffering agent, along with irrigating the mouth to control oral bacteria. This means your child is at greater risk of cavities. For this reason, your dentist may suggest that your child receives more regular checkups. Going to the dentist twice a year is sufficient for most people, but your dentist might suggest that your child receives a checkup three or four times a year.
Accessibility at the Dental Surgery
Since your child may be visiting the dentist on a more regular basis than other children, it's important that the dentist is accessible, which is the case with a special needs dentist. If your child requires a mobility aid, such as crutches or a wheelchair, they need to be able to physically enter the premises without difficulty. Additionally, a special needs dentist will be more likely to accommodate a wheelchair, and may even have a dental platform designed for wheelchairs. This allows the wheelchair itself to be safely angled backward so your child doesn't have to be transferred from their wheelchair to the treatment chair.
Your child's spina bifida shouldn't prevent them from receiving their necessary dental care, and a special needs dentist can certainly make it easier.