Children with disabilities may need particular attention to their dental care, according to a new study from researchers in Spain.
The research report detailing the findings is titled “Oral health in children with physical (Cerebral Palsy) and intellectual (Down Syndrome) disabilities: Systematic review I,“ and the study was published in the Journal of Clinical Experimental Dentistry.
The researchers, led by Montserrat Dieguez-Perez of the School of Dentistry, Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain, conducted a comprehensive review of the medical literature focusing on oral health in children with either cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, compared to children with neither condition.
The team used standard guidelines for the systematic analysis of medical literature, known as the PRISMA statement and modified Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. The researchers used several medical search engines to find articles published between 2000 and 2015, including PubMed/Medline, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library. Search terms included: oral health, dental caries, malocclusion, oral habits, dental trauma, oral hygiene, or disabled child, in addition to cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.
Scientists found a total of 14 studies that met their criteria. The reports focused on cavities, overall oral hygiene and habits, gum health, tooth trauma, and tooth position.
In general, children with cerebral palsy were more likely to have cavities than children without a disability. On the other hand, children with Down syndrome did not have a higher rate of cavities, but they did have worse gum health and poor dental habits (such as tooth grinding) compared to non-disabled kids.
Children with Down syndrome also experienced delays in adult tooth development. Children with cerebral palsy had more frequent trauma to the teeth.
Overall, the report underscored and emphasized a need for close attention to oral and dental health in kids with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.
“Children with physical and intellectual disabilities constitute a group that needs early and regular dental care in order to prevent and limit the severity of the pathologies observed,” the investigators concluded in their report.
Emphasizing the importance of dental care in cerebral palsy, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research lists several potential oral health problems that can occur in people with cerebral palsy, and also provides strategies for care.