Paediatric dentist for Autism
My child has autism. How can I get his teeth checked?
Oral hygiene and regular dental visits are of great importance for all individuals, adults and children. Parents can encourage their children to practise good oral health habits with the help of a pediatric dentist or a dental hygienist.
However, parents will often face many challenges in getting their children to maintain good oral health, especially children who have special needs, like children with autism.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder is a complicated developmental disability related to the brain, making language learning and interacting with people a challenge for autistic children.
This neurodevelopmental disorder typically appears during early childhood and can cause children to display several difficult behaviours.
Why do many children with autism face oral health problems?
Children with autism face increased oral health risks.
Unusual behaviours like headbanging, chewing on harmful objects, picking at the lips, and gum picking can make autistic children more susceptible to developing oral health problems.
Besides, most children with autism opt to eat soft sweet foods that can give rise to dental issues like tooth decay, gum disease and orthodontic problems. They are also more prone to dental trauma.
The medication that autistic children take can also put the autistic child’s oral health at risk, mainly because these medications cause dry mouth. A dry mouth can make your child’s teeth prone to many dental issues such as tooth decay or dental caries.
Children with autism may not be so cooperative when dental visits and maintain oral hygiene habits like tooth brushing and flossing because of having sensory issues.
Having sensory processing issues is the case for many children with developmental disabilities, including Down Syndrome and autism.
How do I get my autistic child to the dentist?
Dental appointments are incredibly important for children with autism and can ensure the health of your child’s teeth. While it is understandable that a dental visit may be too overwhelming for both you and your autistic child, it is not to be neglected.
Regular dental visits and a good oral health program are necessary for a child with autism as these children are more prone to oral health problems.
Contrary to popular belief, a dental visit can be a calm and successful visit rather than a stressful or anxious event. Your child can experience a calm dental visit with the child’s parent’s assistance and experienced paediatric dentists who have had special training on dealing with these children by applying special behavioural techniques and major tricks.
First Dental Appointment
First things first! Never put off your child’s first visit to the dental clinic because of your child’s stress or general anxiety. Paediatric dentists recommend arranging regular trips to the dentist as soon as possible to prevent serious dental problems and make your child familiar with the process during early childhood. Parents are recommended to have their child’s teeth checked by a dentist within six months of their first tooth erupting.
Being in an unfamiliar environment may trigger negative feelings in your autistic child, probably due to the encounter with new sights, sounds, and smells. Try to discuss the process with the child before the actual appointment to lower their anxiety if your child feels nervous about the appointment. Walking your child through the process can also help.
It may help to have your child open their mouth in a dentist chair before the dentist begins the process.
Ask for help
You can seek advice from other parents in your area who have children with the same condition to give you recommendations about dental appointments for a child with autism. Ask for their recommendations on what pediatric dentists may be the best for your child.
Call the clinic
If it helps, you can call the dentist’s office and talk about your concerns or questions you may have about the visit. Ask what type of services they provide for your child’s individual needs.
The behaviour modification strategy
Families find Planned Activity Training a helpful strategy to helping children with autism.
Do not change the dentist
If possible, take your child to the same dentist to get used to their dentist sooner and feel more relaxed about dental visits and being in a dental clinic.
Your child’s favourite object
Your child’s dentist may suggest bringing the child’s favourite object, such as their favourite toy or comfort object, to help them relax during the visit.
A visual schedule could come in handy for some children with autism spectrum disorder; seeing the process through visual outlines may make your child more prepared for their visit, especially if it’s their first trip to the dentist.
Using headphones and sunglasses may be helpful for children with autism or sensory issues to prevent the noise or light from triggering them while in the dentist chair.
A Brisbane dentist guide to oral care for children with autism
Dental care tips for children with autism spectrum disorder
Our paediatric dentists in Brisbane have provided helpful dental care tips for children with autism or sensory issues.
- Provide your children with a soft-bristled toothbrush since other toothbrushes may be too hard for children with an autism spectrum disorder.
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day using a suitable amount of fluoridated toothpaste (grain of rice amount for children below three years of age and a pea-sized amount for children between 3-6 years of age).
- Make sure your child spends enough time brushing their teeth (2 minutes).
- Sensory avoiders may not feel comfortable with a flavoured toothpaste. If your child’s primary objection is about the taste of toothpaste, there’s no need to worry. Lots of unflavoured toothpaste are available you can buy for your child.
- If your children like to brush their teeth, let them do it but make sure they are actively observed.
- If your kid does not feel comfortable having their teeth brushed, consider a step-by-step approach to teeth brushing and wait until the child feels relaxed to proceed to the next step. Please remember that every kid has a timeline to learn a specific skill properly.
- Regular visits to the dentist and healthy eating will significantly lower your children’s risk of developing oral health issues.