Down Syndrome And Dental Health: Understanding And Caring For Your Child's Teeth

Down syndrome causes many differences in development for young children, even with the teeth. When your child has Down syndrome, it's important to realize the differences that they might face with their mouth and teeth. You will need to provide some special at-home care to make sure that your child's teeth stay healthy through childhood.


Most children's first teeth appear between six-twelve months old, and they continue to get teeth on the top and bottom of the mouth consistently after the first tooth appears. Don't worry if your child with Down syndrome does not follow this same pattern. Tooth eruption (the process of the fully formed tooth breaking through the gum and becoming visible) may happen much later.  

Also, don't be alarmed if teeth start to show themselves in a different order. Generally, children get the bottom two front teeth first, but this isn't always true for those with Down syndrome. Your pediatric dentist will closely supervise the eruption of your child's teeth, as out of order growth can sometimes lead to crowding and spacing problems.

Tooth Size

After the primary teeth make their appearance, you will start to notice that your child's teeth may be smaller than those of other children. Don't worry. This is typical for Down syndrome oral development. Because these teeth are smaller, they have thinner layers of protective enamel, and they can often have abnormal shapes. It's important to teach your child excellent oral health at this stage and that you assist in proper brushing and flossing, as these smaller teeth are more susceptible to decay and are not as easy to repair when they get cavities. 

Missing Teeth

Sometimes, children with Down's syndrome may be missing some teeth-- they simply don't grow in. A pediatric dentist can help design a spacer to make sure that the rest of teeth remain in position. After permanent teeth appear, these spaces can sometimes be filed with implants, or larger spacers are designed. Implants are only good for patients with a strong jawbone; sometimes those with Down syndrome have weaker bones in the jaw, or the bones are simply to small to handle the procedure. 

Chewing And Swallowing

Those with Down syndrome typically have a smaller oral cavity, meaning that their tongues may be slightly larger in comparison to the space remaining in the mouth. These proportions, combined with delayed or reduced command of the muscles in the mouth, mean that children may have difficulty using the tongue and teeth to properly chew and swallow food, leading to a higher risk of food becoming trapped between the teeth. It's a good idea to give your child plenty of water during meals, to rinse the teeth and to help them to swallow food. You should also get in the habit of brushing after eating each meals and snack.


One of the reasons why your pediatric dentist who provides Dentistry For Children & Adolescents will work very hard to help you and your child care for teeth and try do as much as possible to help them grow in their correct spaces is because teeth are fundamental for speech. Muscles in the mouth, including the tongue, work with the teeth to make letter sounds-- something that can be difficult for those with Down syndrome. The size of the tongue can cause speech impediments. When the teeth are also damaged or missing, speaking can be even more difficult. 

While your child will need to work with a speech therapist and practice hard, speech patterns can be developed. Because primary teeth are what help children to learn to say different words, make sure that teeth are well cared for and that you see your dentist often for advice on how to encourage your child to communicate with oral sounds.