Cerebral palsy is a diverse condition that affects each person differently. Some people with cerebral palsy will be affected in ways that have implications for their dental care.

If you have cerebral palsy and are concerned about your own dental care, or if you care for someone with cerebral palsy, this may answer some of your questions and point you to more support and advice.

For someone with cerebral palsy, dental care difficulties or damaging oral habits could mean:

  • being unable to clean teeth
  • having to eat soft food
  • having difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • being worried about mouth examinations
  • having behavioural problems caused by not being able to communicate toothache or other sensations.

It's difficult to brush my teeth. What might help?

There are a range of reasons why some people find it difficult to clean their teeth. 

If you have difficulty controlling hand or arm movements, it can make hard to clean teeth effectively. It might be easier to use a toothbrush with a special handgrip or other adaptation. Sometimes switching from a manual to an electric tooth brush might help.

Your dentist should be able to give you general advice. An occupational therapist may also be able to advise.

What will dental treatment cost?

Treatment is available under the National Health Service or privately, depending on the dental practice you register with.

NHS treatment is free to those under 18, pregnant women and for treatment within a year of giving birth. Generally, NHS treatment is also free to anyone receiving means-tested benefits.

If you are on a particularly low income but do not claim any benefits, you may still be able to get help with dental charges.

You can claim this help by filling in form HC1. People who have to pay NHS charges may be able to get help under the NHS Low Income Scheme. The amount of help is based on comparison of your income and treatment needs.

Jobcentre Plus offices and NHS hospitals should also have HC1 forms. Some GPs, dentists and opticians may also have them.

If you think you'll be paying for your treatment, ask for a treatment plan and estimate of charges at the time of the check-up. This helps avoid confusion over payment.

Where can I find a dentist?

Not all dental surgeries are accessible. Some dentists will lack specialist knowledge or the experience needed to work with disabled people.

By entering your postcode on the NHS Choices website, you can get a list of NHS dentists in your area. If you view the individual listing you will find access information listed under ‘facilities’.

Ensuring that the dentist has information before your visit will help you. The dentist will need to know:

  • Medical history, including how cerebral palsy affects you or your child, medication, recent medical procedures and allergies.
  • Details of your doctor and, if relevant, hospital consultant, speech and language therapist or other professionals.
  • Any concerns or anxieties about your or your child’s dental care.
  • Any special needs, such as an interpreter or translator, mobility or access issues, both to the building and treatment chair.

Dental care - further information

  • British Dental Health Foundation: Independent advice on all aspects of dental health including information on fear management, treatment options and preventative care.

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