Parents of children with cerebral palsy face numerous challenges, but one that is often overlooked is their dental care.
How Cerebral Palsy Can Affect Dental Health
While cerebral palsy doesn’t directly affect dental health, the condition does present unique challenges when it comes to dental health. Some of the potential issues include the following:
- Oral motor impairments. Children who suffer from cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling their motor functions. The muscles in and around the mouth control everything from chewing, swallowing, and talking. Involuntary muscle contractions in the mouth can cause difficulty eating and can result in food staying in the mouth for longer than usual. This can lead to premature tooth decay.
- Teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism). Closely related to oral motor impairments, children with cerebral palsy are more prone to grind and clench their teeth than others. While it is most common while they sleep, it can occur during waking hours, especially in children. Teeth grinding and clenching can cause jaw pain, headaches, tooth sensitivity, and worn-down teeth.
- Malocclusion (misaligned teeth). Children with cerebral palsy are more likely to have misaligned teeth. This can lead to difficulties in keeping the teeth clean, leading to tooth decay. It can also cause painful overcrowding, an over or underbite, protruding teeth, and difficulties with eating and breathing.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is common among people who suffer from cerebral palsy. The acidity of the reflux can erode the protective enamel of teeth and lead to significant tooth decay.
- Limited arm function. As mentioned above, children with cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling their motor functions, including their arms. This means that the simple act of brushing their teeth can be a challenge, and it can be difficult for them to clean their teeth properly.
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders. Due to clenching, malocclusion, and issues with motor control, children with cerebral palsy are more likely to develop TMJ. TMJ can be a painful condition that can cause sleep issues and difficulty chewing.
Dental Care for Children with Cerebral Palsy
Here are some tips to ensure that your child is getting adequate dental care:
- Find a dentist who specializes in special needs children
- Use an electric toothbrush
- Supervise and help with your child’s dental hygiene routine
- Have your child wear a mouthguard while they sleep
- Reduce your child’s sugar intake and avoid long-term bottle use
Parents with children who have severe cerebral palsy will obviously need to be more involved. You may want to consider laying them back on a chair or bed to angle or otherwise stabilize their head while brushing.
Was Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy Caused by Medical Malpractice?
While some cases are genetic, it is widely believed that many instances of cerebral palsy are caused by medical malpractice. If you suspect that complications during your pregnancy or birth may be the cause, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your case as soon as possible.
Furthermore, children with cerebral palsy are owed the same level of care as other patients. If your child’s dentist has failed to properly diagnose dental issues or provide adequate care, you may have a claim for compensation.
Contact Ragain & Clark Today
At Ragain & Clark, we have over 30 years of experience in handling cerebral palsy cases and their related claims across Montana and Wyoming. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, call us today at 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland) or complete our online contact form.