If you're the primary caregiver of a mentally disabled adult child, you likely have so much on your plate that taking your child to the dentist for regular exams may fall to the bottom of the priority list. It can be especially hard to schedule and attend these appointments if your child fears the dentist and requires sedation or special handling just to get through a routine exam. In other cases, your financial resources may be nearly tapped out, and paying for dental treatment can be a hardship. 

However, being proactive with dental care is crucially important to help protect your adult child's physical and mental health. Read on to learn more about why proper dental care is essential for disabled adults, as well as some resources and tips to help you access low-cost care for your adult child and make dentist visits more calming.

Why is dental care so important for disabled adults?

Proper dental care has been shown to improve overall health, and poor dental care can often have an impact on your heart and other organs. But while it's important for people of all ages and abilities to take good care of their oral health, maintaining good dental habits is especially important for adults suffering from a mental disability.

At least one recent study has linked gum disease with an increase in the risk of dementia for otherwise healthy individuals. Oral problems have also been linked to Alzheimer's disease and other mental and memory issues, so ignoring minor dental problems could set your child up for more severe physical and mental problems down the road.

Depending upon your child's level of communication, he or she may be able to indicate to you when suffering from a toothache or other dental problem. However, if communication skills tend to ebb and flow, your child may not be able to point out a minor issue until it becomes a major one and pain levels have already begun to affect his or her ability to chew or talk. Once a cavity has become deep enough to reach the nerve of your child's tooth and cause pain, your child could require a root canal, crown, or extraction.  

What are some avenues to access inexpensive dental care for your disabled adult child?

If you're dealing with a tight budget, there are a couple of ways you should be able to access inexpensive dental care on your child's behalf—even without a private dental insurance policy. 

The National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped (NFDH) is a national network of dentists who offer free or low-cost services to the handicapped and elderly who are otherwise unable to pay for needed dental treatment. You should be able to find a dental practice or solo practitioner in your area who performs these services and can quickly let you know whether your child qualifies for free or reduced-cost care.

As Medicaid services have been cut in many states over the last decade, volunteers have stepped in to fill the gaps in coverage. However, in some states with a strong Medicaid program, your child may be able to receive preventive dental care and treatment for most issues through the Medicaid program at a low out-of-pocket cost. While it can be more difficult to find a dentist who accepts Medicaid than a dentist who accepts private insurance, the cost reduction can often be worth driving a bit farther or waiting a week or two for an appointment.

If your child currently receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD), you may want to discuss Medicaid coverage for dental care with his or her caseworker to determine whether going this route is the best option. 

For more information, consult clinics like Dental Associates PC.