Oral Care for Children With Cerebral Palsy

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), although cerebral palsy (CP) itself doesn’t cause oral deformities, several conditions are more common, or more severe, in children with cerebral palsy than in the general population.

Children with CP are also at an increased risk for oral health issues due to gastrointestinal reflux. Because of this reflux, they may begin to display signs of tooth erosion and have sensitivities. 

According to NIDCR and Cerebral Palsy Guidance, other issues that could increase the chance of oral problems in children with CP include: 

  • Trouble chewing and swallowing 
  • Lack of control when using a toothbrush and floss 
  • Malalignment (incorrect or imperfect alignment of the teeth or bone) of the upper and lower mouth 
  • Excessive gagging 
  • Having food in the mouth for long periods of time 

Children with cerebral palsy often need assistance when cleaning their teeth due to impaired physical coordination and/or cognitive skills. It can be difficult for them to attempt this on their own due to several reasons, such as jaw muscles that can’t sufficiently relax, mouth and tongue sensitivities and problems holding a toothbrush or floss. 

Oral Care Tips

The American Dental Association suggests brushing as soon as teeth break through the gums. You can do this twice-daily. For children who have difficulty spitting due to cerebral palsy, ask your dentist which type of toothpaste would be best. 

Caregivers should consider the following tips to help children with CP with home oral care: 

  • Purchase toothbrushes and floss that are easier to use, such as toothpick floss sticks.
  • Buy toothpaste made for children with sensitive teeth and gums.
  • Make teeth-cleaning time a fun activity with various child-friendly games and positive reinforcement.
  • Oral care should be done at a time when the child isn’t tired or angry.

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*Disclaimer: Any health and wellness content presented is for general informational purposes only. Such content is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.