Module 1 Key Points

  • The Maternal and Child Health Bureau has defined children with special health care needs as those “who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions and who require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally.”
  • An important concept for providing care to children with special health care needs is the use of “people first” language. People whose bodies or minds work differently should be viewed first as people and second as people with special health care needs.
  • Growth abnormalities and medical conditions may adversely affect oral health. Oral diseases may also have a direct and devastating impact on the general health of children with certain systemic or developmental problems or conditions.
  • Children with special health care needs are almost twice as likely to have unmet oral health care needs as their peers without special health care needs across all income levels.
  • Children with special health care needs experience a variety of barriers to accessing and paying for oral health care; however, many opportunities for delivering oral health care to this population exist.
  • Guidelines from several professional organizations recommend that all children should be referred to a dentist 6 months after the first tooth erupts or by age 12 months (whichever comes first) for establishment of a dental home.
  • Children with special health care needs may need to visit an oral health professional every 2 to 3 months for professional preventive care, depending on risk factors.