As a dentist, you encounter individuals from all walks of life on a daily basis. When it comes to treating patients with Down syndrome, however, are there any special practices or protocols to follow during care? This brief review provides some insight on how to offer personalized services to patients and caregivers affected by Down syndrome.
A Brief Overview Of Down Syndrome
Before drilling deeper into the details of dental care for DS, let’s first examine what this medical condition entails. The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) describes Down syndrome individuals as having an extra chromosome 21. Down syndrome is one of the most popular genetic disorders in the United States. The NDSS states that roughly 6,000 babies are born with the condition per year. So, how is this tied to dental care? We all know that good oral health plays a big role in our overall well-being. In addition, a better smile is associated with confidence and good hygiene. With Down syndrome patients, there are a few extra measures to take in order to ensure safety.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, both children and adults with Down syndrome are susceptible to certain medical diseases, including:
- Heart Conditions
- A Weak Immune System
- Low Muscle Tone (Hypotonia)
- Visual and Hearing Impairments
Things To Keep In Mind
These conditions directly impact patients’ oral health. For example, many dental care providers find that patients with Down syndrome frequently suffer from:
- Recurring Mouth Lesions
- Delayed Healing Times
- Unforeseen Hemorrhaging
Other Factors To Consider
Individuals with Down syndrome may have varying levels of intellectual or physical disabilities, ranging from mild to severe. Because of this, it’s essential to collaborate with parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to gain insight into patients’ medical history, vulnerabilities, and preferences. Similar to how you’d try to build trust and rapport with any patient, individuals with Down syndrome appreciate the same relationship-building skills used by dentists all over.
A Quick Plan-Of-Action
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research also recommends these “extra” tips when you’re specifically treating patients with Down syndrome:
- Educate Staff – Use a holistic approach to good customer care. In essence, speak with your staff about keeping a positive and upbeat attitude from the moment patients set foot through your doors.
- Customize Settings – Due to the distinctive orofacial features of individuals with Down syndrome and concerns about spinal issues, seating adjustments need to be made beforehand.
- Be an Advocate – To achieve successful dental care, you need the cooperation of patients. Be sure to discuss the importance of daily oral hygiene at home. Encourage caregivers to offer incentives for independent care – without the use of sugary treats.
- Consult the Primary Caregiver – For the safest dental care, contact your patient’s primary healthcare provider (PHP) before administering any treatment. The PHP will have a better understanding of medicines and practices to avoid while making appropriate recommendations for success.
The Take Home Message
It’s important to note that with today’s advances in medical care, many Down syndrome patients go on to live relatively normal lives. As such, dentists should take an unbiased approach when meeting and interacting with patients. All this while following protocols outlined by authoritative boards.
About the Author
Dr. Normand Bach received his dental degree from the University of Montreal in 2002, and completed a certificate of multidisciplinary residency at Notre-Dame Hospital in 2003. In 2008, Dr. Bach completed a Master’s Degree of Science and a Certificate in Orthodontics at the University of Montreal. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Montreal and is responsible for the undergraduate orthodontic clinic, in addition to maintaining a private practice limited to orthodontics in Montreal. http://orthodontistemontreal.com/