What Oral Health Problems Can People with Cerebral Palsy Face?

October 29, 2021

What Oral Health Problems Can People with Cerebral Palsy Face?
What Oral Health Problems Can People with Cerebral Palsy Face?

Children with cerebral palsy (CP) have a greater likelihood of having dental problems, with one study in particular (Akhter et al, 2016) finding that dental caries can be highly prevalent in children with this condition. Of course, cavities are just one of many problems that can be linked to neuromuscular problems which are part of CP. If you have a child with this condition, seeking early preventive care is key. Because oral problems can cause pain and discomfort, preventing them from your child’s early years should be given due priority.


CP and Poor Oral Hygiene


One reason often cited for the oral health problems people with CP face is poor oral hygiene. The high prevalence of orofacial motor dysfunction can hamper good oral hygiene strategies. A failure to adequately clean teeth and gums can lead to the formation and retention of biofilm—layers of bacterial cells that attach to the supragingival or subgingival surface of teeth. It is important to ensure that children’s teeth are brushed and flossed after mealtime to avoid the formation of plaque. You should also visit a dental practitioner—preferably one that specializes in children with special needs. This practitioner can professionally clean and seal teeth to avoid the formation of cavities. If necessary, an orthodontist can help correct malocclusions and other problems that can make it harder to maintain good oral health. Speech and language therapists, meanwhile, may be able to help children with tasks such as swallowing.


Aspects of CP that Can Worsen Oral Health


From the time you receive your child’s cerebral palsy diagnosis, it is vital to understand the important role that nutrition can play in your child’s oral health. Once your child is diagnosed, various tests may be required—including hearing and speech, movement, and vision tests. The results will give you vital information regarding whether or not your child has aspects that can increase the likelihood of oral health conditions. For instance, children who have more trouble controlling facial muscles and find it difficult to swallow and chew can also make it difficult to clean teeth and remove all traces of food after meals. Children who have seizures, meanwhile, can be more prone to grinding teeth or biting lips or cheeks. Finally, misaligned bites can also make it more difficult to bite and chew food.


The Importance of Nutrition


Akhter et al found that sugar-rich nutritional regimens and habits such as snacking between meals contribute to the high prevalence of cavities and gum disease in children with CP. In their study, researchers found that around 42.2% of children had a non-solid diet as their main food and snacks and that a majority of caregivers were unable to identify hidden sources of sugar in these foods. It is vital to discuss a child’s diet with doctors and dieticians so as to ensure that children are obtaining the right amount of proteins, vitamins, minerals, liquids, and calories as a whole. If necessary, children can be recommended vitamin or mineral supplements, protein boosters, and the like.


Children with CP have a higher likelihood of oral health problems. The latter include cavities, teeth grinding, and gum disease. Parents and health teams should prioritize and take a preventive approach to oral health care—this approach should include dental visits, nutritional interventions, and (if necessary) therapies that can aid with functions such as swallowing.


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