Oral health, is important for those with cerebral palsy (CP) due to tooth decay issues being common for different reasons. Regular checkups address oral health issues such as tooth decay, tooth grinding and reflux (which may require follow-up with a specialist).

Due to chewing and swallowing challenges, some people with cerebral palsy may eat starchy foods, that can cause increased tooth decay.

Medications, or breathing through the mouth, can cause their mouths to dry out, which can mean less saliva to wash out leftover food particles and bacteria in the mouth.

Further, it may be difficult, in some cases, to access and brush their back teeth.

Challenges to Maintaining Dental | Oral Health in Cerebral Palsy

  • Oral hypersensitivity- An allergic, or non-allergic, reaction, mild or severe, caused by anything placed in or around the mouth.
  • Positioning- Child or adult with cerebral palsy in unable to lean back, open mouth, etc., not allowing good oral care to be done on a daily schedule.
  • Hyper or hypo active gag reflex- A very sensitive (hyper) gag reflex can be caused by nasal drippings, acid reflux, taking oral medications or even things like anxiety. Non-responsive (hypo) gag reflex should be watched, since the sensation to swallow is not triggered when there is saliva build up, for example.
  • Bite reflexes- The need to bite anything seen or close to the mouth.

Products and Strategies to help Dental | Oral Health for People with Cerebral Palsy

  • Toothpastes that are gels are more water-soluble and may work better because they clear out of the mouth easier.
    • The amount of fluoride should be watched, especially in younger children, or those prone to swallowing toothpaste, because there are guidelines for how much fluoride can be safely ingested (see the American Dental Association website for more information).
  • Consider brushes with a rotating head, wide handles, or brushes modified with a tennis ball on the end, so that it is easier to hold.
  • Rinsing is one of the most important strategies in maintaining good oral health, by keeping the mouth clean.
  • Brush and floss as much as possible to maintain a more neutral PH in the mouth.
    • A more acidic oral PH leads to a higher risk of dental decay and cavities.
  • Use a dry mouth spray (ask your dental care provider for recommendations).
  • Use a fluoride varnish, consult with your dentist to see if this is appropriate.

For more information, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.