Between 1 and 4 in 1,000 children are born with cerebral palsy (CP), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While cerebral palsy isn’t known to directly cause tooth decay, its associated symptoms and conditions can cause significant dental erosion. This means it is crucial that children with CP regularly see a dentist and their parents do all they can to prevent or delay the teeth from decaying.
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Causes of CP-related tooth decay
There are different types of cerebral palsy, including spastic CP, Athetoid, and Ataxic. The type of CP a child has generally dictated the muscle problems they will encounter. For example, some children will have spastic cerebral palsy which causes tight muscles and range of movement issues. These children often have trouble gripping and moving a toothbrush around their mouths, so are prone to tooth decay. Other children with CP have problems chewing and swallowing food, which means it hangs around in the mouth and the teeth for longer than necessary. In time, this causes the teeth to decay.
Preventing CP related tooth decay
Another main cause of tooth decay in children with CP is medications. Many of the medications children with CP take contain sugars which play a role in tooth decay. Of course, it’s essential that children with CP continue to take their medications, but regular medication reviews with a doctor are recommended. This will ensure that the medication isn’t doing more harm than good.
Up to 77% of people with CP experience Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). This condition is risky to a child’s teeth as it involves the regurgitation of stomach acid. This acid then sits on the teeth and breaks them down. Parents and doctors play a vital role in ensuring that GERD remains under control with appropriate medications, food choices, and surgery.
It’s recommended that all children visit the dentist at least once per year. Children with CP are best seeing a dentist that specializes in treating patients with special needs as they’ll understand the full impact that CP plays on the teeth. This type of dentist will also be able to advise children with CP and their parents on the best dental treatment for their needs, such as the need for a soft-bristled toothbrush, fluoridated toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and a mouth prop.
Many children with Cerebral Palsy develop tooth decay due to multiple reasons. But there are ways to reduce the likelihood of this happening and this includes regular trips to a specialist dentist.