A Guide to Dental Care for Children with Autism

Artwork by CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal

Blog submitted by Samantha Litten,
Outreach Coordinator, Byte, Santa Monica, CA, USA, on World Oral hygiene day, 20th March.

Byte connects you to a network of dentists and orthodontists across the United States. Each treatment plan is reviewed and approved by the state-licensed doctor to help ensure you’re a great candidate for clear aligners before you start your journey with them. Visit them here-

Children with autism are likely to suffer many more oral health problems, including tooth decay, gum disease and dental injury, then children without autism. Many autistic kids have sensory sensitivities that make it difficult to maintain an effective oral hygiene routine. These issues may also make visits to the dentist challenging.

Parents and caregivers can do several things to make oral hygiene and dental visits easier for their autistic kids. Implementing behavioral techniques, using autism-friendly dental products, and seeking out dental professionals with specialized knowledge can all help your child with autism maintain good oral health.

Children with Autism Face Increased Oral Health Risks and can face a handful of issues related to their oral health. Among them:

1. They may have difficulty tolerating the sensory inputs involved in brushing and flossing, leading them to skip these necessary tasks.
2. They may engage in behaviors that endanger the teeth and gums, such as head banging and gum picking. 
3. There is some evidence that children with autism also prefer to eat soft, sweet foods.  These types of foods often promote tooth decay. Parents may also give children with autism candies and other sweet foods as rewards for good behavior.
Because of these challenges, these kids are at greater risk of developing many different oral health conditions, including:

●Tooth decay
●Gum disease
●Teeth grinding, especially at night (known as bruxism)
●Traumatic dental injuries
●Orthodontic problems
●The combination of negative habits with the increased likelihood of gum and teeth issues as a result make bi-annual trips to the dentist more of a priority for these children.

General Oral Health Tips
Daily oral hygiene tasks might be more difficult for children with autism, but they are essential for protecting their teeth and gums. Experts at Byte have developed some useful strategies to help children with autism maintain good oral health.

Lead by ExampleLet Them Gradually Take ControlEstablish a RoutineReward Success

1. Show your child how to brush and floss properly with a live demonstration. First, brush and floss your own teeth in front of them, showing them exactly what each step looks like. Then, perform those same action on them, letting them watch what you’re doing in the mirror.

2. Recommended Oral Hygiene Products
Plenty of oral hygiene products on the market can help children with autism address the set of unique struggles they face. Some of these include:

3. Special toothbrushes. Regular toothbrushes may too harsh for kids with autism. Choose a brush with extra soft or silicone bristles for a gentle experience. 

4. Non-foaming or differently flavored toothpaste. Many children with autism find unflavored and non-foaming toothpastes more tolerable than typical mint or cinnamon flavors. Others enjoy child-friendly flavors like fruit punch and bubblegum. 

5. Flavored floss. Many children with autism strongly object to using mint-flavored floss. Have them try out a few different flavors of floss to see if any of them are more acceptable to your child. If none of them work, a water flosser might be better suited to your child’s needs.

6. Timers. Children with autism often want to get brushing over with as soon as possible, so they may struggle to brush for the entire two-minute period that dentists recommend. Offer them some sort of timer to help with this: this could be a small hourglass, a kitchen timer, a stopwatch, or even a built-in timer on their toothbrush.

Visiting the Dentist

Visiting the dentist can be stressful for children with autism. Here are a few ways to make this process easier for both you and your child.

1.Explain What Will Happen in Advance
2.Practice Desensitization
3.Go to the Same Dentist Each Time
4.Bring Comfort Objects
5.Use Reinforcement Rewards
6.Dentists with Special Training

Luckily, there are so many more things parents and caregivers can do to help with day to day oral hygiene and dentist visits. Byte has created a dental health guide for children with autism. Do visit the website and check all the options now:

Author- Samantha Litten
Outreach Coordinator
1556 20th Street, Suite A

Santa Monica, CA 90404

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal who has drawn a toothfairy which is a featured image for this blog.

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