Oral care is important, even if a child isn’t eating or drinking orally. In fact, children who don’t eat orally often need more oral care because they typically don’t produce as much teeth-cleansing saliva as children who eat.
We know that oral aversions and aspiration concerns can make oral care challenging. Children who are have limited oral diets should still see a dentist once they have teeth. Depending on your child’s condition, there are dentists that specialize in children with special needs and common dental issues that they face.
For infants and toddlers, you can try using the fingertip toothbrushes or wipe the mouth with a wet cloth. If your child has trouble accepting toothbrushes, talk to your feeding therapist or Speech Language Pathologist about incorporating the toothbrush into therapy sessions. It can help with both oral aversions for eating, as well as increase acceptance for oral care.
If your child aspirates and isn’t able to spit, you may want to consider brushing with a small amount of mouth rinse, or fluoride rinse. This may also be a solution for children who gag or react to having toothpaste foam in their mouth. For children with significant aspiration or respiratory issues, there are special toothbrushes that attach to a suction machine that suction the toothpaste and saliva as you brush. There are also a range of toothpaste flavors if your child has aversions to mint.
It is always important to check with your dentist to see what they recommend specifically for your child.
Things to consider:
- Tube feeding itself doesn’t impact dental health, but medical conditions associated with tube feeding may.
- Some medications can discolor teeth
- Excessive acid may erode tooth enamel. Some children are impacted by this, and some are not.
- Limited oral diets do not necessarily impact the timetable of when kids get teeth and loose baby teeth. Some kids who have limited oral diets get all their teeth early, some as expected, and some later. Medical conditions may factor in.
We hear from a number of parents who are concerned about their child having bad breath, even with good oral care. You should always tell your doctor about bad breath, as it can be a sign of a medical condition. Causes of bad breath include the following:
- Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines is more common among those who have motility issues and can cause bad breath, excessive gas, and distention that is hard to vent out
- Infection in the mouth, nose or throat
- Metabolic conditions, GERD, and other medical conditions
- Dry mouth and dehydration