Health reports from NBC4's Dr. Bruce Hensel

Braces Options Grow for Special Needs Children

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An Orange County orthodontist is helping kids with disabilities improve their smile with an alternative to metal braces. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday, July 21, 2014. (Published Monday, Jul 21, 2014)

    For the parents of children with disabilities who need braces, finding an orthodontist who understands their child’s special needs can be challenging.

    Because these children often have hypersensitivity to sensation and pain and have difficulty sitting still, some parents may choose to ignore their child's dental issues over fears the process will be too difficult and anxiety-ridden.

    But there can be consequences to not fixing a child’s crooked teeth, as they may make eating difficult and can result in food being stuck inside the mouth. This can lead to decay and gum disease and also negatively impact a child’s self-esteem.

    Parents should know options are available for special needs children.

    A growing number of dentists and orthodontists are modifying their practices to help children with special needs including Orange County Orthodontic Specialist Dr. Ken Fischer, who has a practice in Villa Park catered special needs patients.

    "We make them comfortable in the position they're in," said Fischer. "And we do our work to their comfort level, not necessarily ours."

    Fischer will often substitute the metal braces with a plastic alternative.

    "Metal braces will be uncomfortable and unmanageable for their special needs kids," Fischer said. "The plastic trays are nothing more than a very thin layer of plastic encasing a tooth. It’s smooth. It’s comfortable."

    The plastic trays move the teeth a little bit at a time. They can be removed for cleaning and are replaced every 10 to 14 days with a new version. Most treatments can take one to two years.

    Fischer has also made his office wheelchair accessible and gives his patients the option to stay in their wheelchairs when they’re visiting the office. He doesn’t penalize parents for missed office visits and has replaced the traditional gooey molds used to make impressions with an all-digital system.

    "I want more people to adopt a treatment protocol for these kids and (more parents) to know that successful treatment can be accomplished," Fischer said.
     

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