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Down Syndrome & Oral Health: Unique Dental Barriers & How to Tackle Them

May 16, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — ddfamilyteam @ 4:53 pm
a woman brushing her teeth

Every smile is different; however, patients with Down Syndrome often face a variety of unique differences related to their disability. Acknowledging these in addition to seeing a knowledgeable professional who also understands these differences can help you or your loved one make positive changes to their at-home dental routine to maintain a cavity-free smile. Read on to learn a few challenges that are unique to those with Down Syndrome.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is a top concern among those with Down Syndrome. This can occur as a result of a bite problem (malocclusion), which places excessive force on the jaw joints and muscles, or due to a smaller upper jaw, which can occur in patients with Down Syndrome.

When teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, occurs regularly, it can lead to worn-down dental enamel, which is the substance that helps protect teeth from decay. This habit can also lead to secondary dental concerns like TMJ disorder, which can impact jaw comfort and ability to easily open and close the mouth.

Pocketing Food While Eating

Food pocketing, which is when children or adults pocket food in their cheeks while eating, can also impact dental health. This is a common occurrence in children with Down Syndrome and can happen due to sensory problems related to food texture, low muscle tone and endurance, or a difference in chewing skill development.

The longer food sits in the cheeks and exposes the mouth to molecules like carbohydrates, the more likely it is for harmful oral bacteria to build up within the mouth. Bacteria feed off of food debris and in turn, release acidic waste that is a leading cause of enamel erosion and cavities.  

Overstimulation & Sensitivity

Overstimulation and sensitivity to textures and sounds can make keeping up with a daily oral hygiene routine like brushing and flossing much harder and lead to a higher risk of developing common oral health problems. This isn’t just unique to those with Down Syndrome, though! Many children and adults on the autism spectrum also have to work towards addressing this barrier. It can be done by purchasing toothbrushes, toothpastes, and other dental hygiene products that are quieter, lighter, or offer a different sensation than the one that they’re currently using and don’t like.  

Tips for Keeping Smiles Cavity-Free & Healthy

Whether you’re an adult with Down Syndrome or the caretaker of a child with Down Syndrome or any other disability, helping minimize the time spent in the treatment chair is always positive. Some preventive measures you can take to avoid common health concerns include:

  • Daily use of chlorhexidine, which is an antimicrobial product that can help prevent gum disease.
  • Using fluoridated toothpastes and mouthrinses.
  • Opting for a manual toothbrush instead of an electric one.
  • Utilize flossing picks or a water flosser instead of traditional dental floss.
  • Avoid overindulgence in beverages that are high in sugar and can coat the teeth, like soda and juice. Instead, opt for more water.

A healthy smile is a happy one, and with these helpful oral health tips for patients with Down Syndrome, you may also be able to help your very own smile or your loved ones’ smile continue to shine.

About the Author

Dr. Durga Devarakonda is DD Family Dentistry of Carrollton’s knowledgeable and experienced professional. She graduated with her DDM degree from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and has been practicing for well over a decade. She has a unique background serving patients of all ages as well as patients with different disabilities. For questions or to schedule a checkup and cleaning, visit DD Family Dentistry of Carrollton’s website or call 972-236-7906.

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