Approximately 9.3 American million children (nearly 13%) have special health care needs, including developmental disorders, systemic disorders and sensory impairments. These children have more oral disease and greater unmet dental needs than the general pediatric population. Petrova et al from the University of Minnesota studied the relationship between these children’s level of functioning and their oral health. In addition to giving demographic information, parents of 154 children aged 2 to 16 years completed a 39-question version of the Survey Interview Form of the Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales (SIFVABS) designed to measure the children’s level of functioning across 6 domains:

  • listening and understanding

  • talking

  • daily living

  • relating to others

  • playing and using leisure time

  • physical activity

The children’s oral hygiene was evaluated on a 3-point scale (poor, fair, good); their gingival health was evaluated on a 4-point scale (within normal limits, mild gingivitis, moderate gingivitis, severe gingivitis).

Most of the children had ≥1 developmental disorder, with epilepsy/seizure disorder (36%), cerebral palsy (31%) and autism spectrum disorder (25%) the most common. The most frequent systemic health issues included gastroesophageal reflux disease and the presence of a gastrostomy tube (41%), asthma (18%) and cardiovascular disease (13%); 18% of the children had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity dis-order, while 7% had cleft lip and/or palate.

Higher levels of talking skill correlated with better lev-els of oral hygiene and gingival health. Higher levels of listening and understanding correlated to better parental perception of children’s oral health state and better lev-els of oral hygiene. Children with special health care needs face problems with oral health care as well, including higher levels of dental caries, malocclusion and broken teeth. Education of the parents of these children can help meet their needs.

Petrova EG, Hyman M, Estrella MRP, Inglehart MR. Children with special health care needs: exploring the relation-ships between patients’ level of function-ing, their oral health, and caregivers’ oral health-related responses. Pediatr Dent 2014;36:233-239.

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