Dysphagia And Oral Health Concerns - What You Can Do To Help Your Child

23 September 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Articles

If your child has a dysphagia disorder or a condition where he or she cannot properly swallow food, then your little one is part of the 7% of the population with this condition. While most individuals with swallowing difficulties are older, there are still many children who are born with difficulties that can lead to serious oral problems. As a parent, you can help to make sure that the proper treatments and at home care are provided, so keep reading to learn about some common concerns and how they can be treated.

Dental Erosion

If your child's dysphagia condition involves swallowing issues, then the esophagus may not close off properly when food is swallowed. This type of problem also allows the stomach acids to escape up through the esophagus to some degree. This is called acid reflux, and the problem is often seen in people who cannot keep acid in the stomach through the normal function of the diaphragm. Unfortunately, stomach acids have a pH between 1.5 and 3.5 due to the presence of hydrochloric acid. When these acids enter the mouth, they can easily eat away at the tooth enamel and this causes cavities to form.

Reflux medications that either help to neutralize the acid or reduce the amount of stomach fluids that are produced by the body can be used to prevent dental erosion issues.

Choosing the Right Foods

You can also limit the number of acidic foods that your child eats so the problem is not exacerbated. Some of these foods to avoid or limit include tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, chocolate, cranberries, dairy foods, and soda. Consider giving your child alkaline foods instead. Some of these foods include bananas, spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas, potatoes, and almonds. If swallowing is an issue to the point that crunchy foods cannot be consumed, then think about creating fruit and vegetable smoothies. Not only will this help you to include health alkaline foods in your child's diet, but they will receive the nutrients they need. This is wise, because dysphagia can cause malnutrition due to the way that foods cannot be consumed properly.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is another issue that may plague your child with dysphagia, especially if the condition keeps your child from closing the lips tightly. Not only will this keep your child from swallowing and sipping with any strength, but the mouth may hang open a bit. This will cause saliva to evaporate and the mouth to lose its moisture. Unfortunately, saliva is extremely important in keeping your child's teeth and gums healthy.

The saliva whisks away food and some of the microorganisms away from the teeth so that cavities are less likely to form. The saliva also helps to keep the pH of the mouth near neutral. Bacteria tend to thrive in more acidic environments and an acidic mouth can contribute to cavities.

Strengthen the Mouth Muscles

One of the best ways to help your child's dry mouth condition is to help them strengthen the jaw muscles so the mouth can be kept closed. Consider providing your child with a sugar-free hard candy three or more times a day. Sucking on the candy will promote muscle strength and force the salivary glands to produce more fluid. If you choose a peppermint or cinnamon candy, then the treats can even kill some of the bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities to form. 

Also, think about providing your child with ice cubes to suck on. The water will help keep fluids in the mouth while helping your child to work on sucking behaviors. The water will hydrate the mouth and body. Dysphagia and dehydration often go hand in hand, and this can worsen the dry mouth condition as well as a wide variety of other oral and other health issues. 

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