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Special Needs Orthodontist

Do you have someone with special needs at home who would benefit from braces or clear aligners? Or do you or someone you love suffer from anxiety at the thought of pursuing orthodontics? At Dr. Melanie Orthodontics, we believe everyone deserves a designer smile that will enhance their life. And have no fear, as the mom of a child with special needs herself, it’s no surprise that our talented orthodontist Dr. Melanie and her team are experts at providing orthodontics for those with special needs.

It’s not uncommon for those with special abilities or anxiety to feel apprehensive in clinical settings or in situations they’re not used to. Dr. Melanie knows firsthand how to help a patient with special healthcare needs feel safe, happy and comfortable in the orthodontist’s chair. Whether you’re a parent considering braces for your autistic child or a caregiver looking at Invisalign for a teen dealing with epilepsy, we’re your San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe orthodontist for those with unique challenges.

Did you know that there’s a higher likelihood of orthodontic issues in those with special needs? But orthodontic care — though it can benefit in ways beyond just a straight smile — isn’t routinely sought after by those who are differently-abled. It can be said that some barriers make it challenging to consider orthodontics or maintain treatment. Rest assured that your San Diego orthodontist and team are here to provide orthodontic care that works for each and every one of our patients’ unique circumstances. Whether your child has cognitive, developmental, emotional, physical or medical conditions, we will walk with you through the orthodontic experience with patience and compassion. Just like you, we want your child to live their best life! So let’s dive into what that means.

Straighter Teeth, Healthier Mouth

For everyone, it goes without saying that straighter, more aligned teeth are a big help in maintaining a healthier smile. Straighter teeth equals easier, more effective brushing and flossing. There’s fewer nooks and crannies for plaque to hide! And let’s not forget that flossing is easier when teeth aren’t crowded. When you can brush and floss easier, you’re on your way to enjoying less plaque build up, less tooth decay and hearing your dentist congratulate you more often with, “No Cavities!”

With special needs kids, good daily oral hygiene is, understandably, not always the highest priority. Dr. Melanie believes orthodontics for special needs patients can make brushing and flossing easier (and fun) so you can set up good oral care habits that will last a lifetime.

Cool fact? A healthy mouth can also mean healthy digestion. When there’s less bacteria build-up in your mouth, there’s less harmful bacteria that could negatively affect your gut flora and cause digestive problems.

A Straight Smile Can Make Meals More Enjoyable

Speaking of digestion, let’s talk about teeth and food. For those with special needs, sometimes diet and nutrition preferences are very specific and the sheer enjoyment of food is a challenge. Throw in misaligned teeth, otherwise called “malocclusion,” and eating can become even more tricky. A crossbite, underbite or overbite means that the top and bottom teeth aren’t lining up or stacking the best they could, affecting how easy or hard it is to chew certain foods. And when food isn’t chewed thoroughly, digestive issues or even trouble with swallowing or choking can happen. 

Teeth growing in less-than-ideal directions or teeth that are missing can also make eating frustrating. A straight smile helps improve the functioning of your child’s teeth and, sometimes, in turn, easier eating can help open up your child’s food options. 

A Designer Smile Equals a Boost of Confidence

For many, the number one reason for seeking orthodontic care is aesthetics. Now, you might say, “Hold on, it’s not what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside that counts, right?” We totally agree! But it’s also no secret that having a smile you’re proud of helps boost self-esteem. And it’s not just personal vanity — as humans, we’re hardwired as a visual bunch — we value appearance and are more likely to have positive impressions of people when they have a perfectly aligned smile. It’s proven that we perceive people with straight, attractive smiles as friendlier, more approachable and happy. For those who are differently-abled, a straight smile can also help change how others perceive or treat you.

A Perfect Smile Can Improve Speech Functioning

Those with special needs sometimes have barriers to communication and one thing that adds to these communication challenges is speech issues. Remember the malocclusion we mentioned earlier when we talked about eating? These misalignments can also affect how we talk and pronounce words.

The most common misalignment issues that affect speech are:

  • overjet teeth (when your front teeth stick out over your lower front teeth)
  • overbite
  • underbite
  • Open bite
  • crossbite
  • crowding teeth
  • too much space between teeth

Orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign corrects misalignments that contribute to speech issues. Straight teeth or a more open mouth that accommodates your tongue better, can help alleviate speech difficulties like lisping, whistling, slurring or difficulty pronouncing consonants — most commonly  “d” or “t”. 

Let’s be honest, though. We at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics know that speech difficulties might not instantly disappear once the braces are off. Although orthodontics does some heavy lifting, some patients, including those with special needs, might need orthodontics and speech therapy working hand-in-hand to completely correct their speech issues. 

High Tech Innovation for Fast and Painless Appointments

We use the latest technology, like the iTero™ digital impression system, to help us take quick, painless and accurate digital scans of your teeth. From these iTero scans, we get an almost immediate 3D model of your teeth on our computer! There are no goopy trays that wouldn’t work for sensitivity issues, there’s no scary old-school x-ray machine. And you can stay in the room to keep your child company the whole appointment!

From the 3D model, Dr. Melanie can digitally map out your child’s treatment plan so you can see exactly what will happen. She can also use the 3D model to create custom clear aligners, retainers or indirect bonding templates on our in-office 3D printer. Indirect bonding templates are especially helpful for specially-abled patients getting braces: they allow your San Diego orthodontist for special needs to put all the braces brackets on all at once instead of one by one. This means the special needs patient is sitting in the chair for a much shorter time than in traditional bracket placement.


Grin Remote Monitoring

Many parents of special needs children might breathe a sigh of relief when we mention Grin remote monitoring. Instead of coming into our San Diego or Rancho Santa Fe office for every clear aligner check-up, the Grin app allows you to send progress images from home (or anywhere you happen to be). Dr. Melanie reviews the scans and sends you a message back in the app letting you know if progress is on track or if adjustments need to be made. All you need is your smartphone, the provided mouthpiece, and the app!

Tips for Success with Orthodontic Special Needs or Anxious Patients 

The team at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics has a lot of experience providing orthodontic care to those with special needs and anxiety. So we’ve gathered a list of our top tips and tricks for making the journey a smooth and successful one!

  1. Schedule a free consultation in our office. This is a painless visit where our orthodontist and the team can get to know you and your child.
  2. Schedule appointments for first thing in the morning. We’ve found that later appointments give children more time to think about seeing the orthodontist, sometimes causing an increase in anxiety throughout the day. Another bonus of morning appointments? The earlier hours are the quieter, less busy times in our San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe offices than the afternoon. Less distractions and less people around usually equates to less anxiety.
  3. Inform our staff of your child’s needs and if they have anxiety about their appointment before they are coming in.  We can make special accommodations to help your child feel more comfortable.  
  4. Book shorter, more frequent appointments. We can also break up longer appointments into several shorter ones as well.  

Dr. Melanie has extensive experience treating children with special abilities. You can be confident that your child’s designer smile journey with us is filled with understanding, patience and care. We want all children to have access to comfortable orthodontics so contact our San Diego or Rancho Sante Fe office for your free in-person smile evaluation or book a virtual consultation today.

Dr. Melanie

Author Dr. Melanie

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