Every person has the same basic dental needs: daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet. For people with special conditions such as a stroke, mental retardation, a spinal cord injury or Down syndrome, these basic dental needs may be more difficult to address.

Here are some tips for caregivers who may need to provide oral hygiene assistance to people with special needs:

  1. Choose a well-lit, convenient location.
  2. 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.
  3. Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling the person.
  4. Give verbal praise and reinforce independent attempts.
  5. Support the person’s head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.
  6. If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, you can make a mouth prop can by taping several tongue blades together. Discuss with your dentist how to insert a mouth prop to avoid injury to teeth.
  7. Lastly, it is important to visit a dentist that has training and experience in treating patients with special needs.