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How can I take care of the teeth of someone with special needs?

People of all ages may have special conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimer's disease or arthritis. Each of these people has the same basic dental needs we all do: daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

Caregivers may need to provide oral hygiene assistance to people with special needs. Here are some tips:
  • Choose a well-lit, convenient location.
  • If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to calm him or her by explaining what you are about to do, or schedule the task for a time of day when the person is more rested or may be more receptive.
  • Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling the person.
  • Give verbal praise and reinforce independent attempts.
  • Support the person's head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.
  • If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, you can make a mouth prop by taping several tongue blades together. Discuss with your dentist how to insert a mouth prop to avoid injury to teeth.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.