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By: Katherine A. TeKolste, MD, FAAP, Developmental Pediatrician,
Member, Interdisciplinary Children’s Oral Health Promotion (ICOHP) project

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Introduction

Children with special health care needs are at higher risk than the general population for oral health problems.

  • Routine self-care may be difficult or impossible for a child, e.g. due to motor disability such as seen in spastic quadriplegia or due to cognitive or behavioral impairment.
  • The underlying disease may impact oral health, such as with cleft lip and palate or leukemia.
  • The treatment of a chronic disorder may lead to secondary oral health problems, such as gingival hyperplasia with anticonvulsants, methotrexate, immunosuppressants and calciuim channel blockers.


In surveys of the special needs population, parents and families identify dental care as the most common unmet health care need for their children.

How Can the Primary Health Care Provider Help Optimize Oral Health?

  • Emphasize prevention
    • Reinforce the importance of daily oral care
    • Provide handouts and brochures on how to maintain oral hygiene
    • “Innoculate against cavities” by reviewing fluoride exposure and supplementing when indicated
    • Review diet and feeding practices for behaviors and habits that create a high risk for developing caries or gingivitis
    • Review medications and dosage regimens to minimize oral health side effects
      • Address oral health on the community level whenever possible

Helpful Resources

For the Health Care Provider

For Families

Further Information