01 Apr Children’s Dental Tips for Autism Awareness Month
Having good dental hygiene is a vital component of daily living, however, for many children with autism having good dental habits can be challenging. You want your autistic child to brush their teeth independently, but this is not always so easy. Depending on where a child is on the spectrum, teaching normal day to day tasks can be very difficult for both the parents and the child. It’s not surprising that many autistic children have fair to poor dental health.
In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, we bring you some autistic dental tips that may prove helpful in establishing good oral health and hygienic practices in your child.
• If the sensation of brushing their teeth is uncomfortable, start off slow and desensitize them to the feeling. Start off by touching the toothbrush to your child’s lips and then eventually work your way to touching the inside of their mouth with the toothbrush.
• Demonstrate to your child how you brush your teeth. Physically showing your child how you brush your own teeth can be helpful, especially if you both do it together. Have your child mirror what you do in your mouth, in their own mouth.
• When you are purchasing toothpaste for your autistic child, make sure that the flavor is not too intense. If possible, allow your child to pick out a toothpaste that they like and are attracted to (even though you may still have to go through a few flavors in the process). By giving them some control, especially on items such as toothpaste and their toothbrush, they are able to feel like they are capable and it can help empower them.
• Autistic children can be very finicky eaters, and they may have a limited diet, so do your best to ensure that your child is healthy and won’t promote cavities. You should try to limit or avoid sticky/gummy foods, acidic foods, and sugary drinks as much as possible.
• Some autistic children may benefit from visual supports that can help guide them in the proper way to brush their teeth. You can do this by taking photographs of each step and either print them out or put the photos onto a digital picture frame.
• Many individuals with autism need routine, so make their oral hygiene habits into a daily schedule, this way there are no surprises. If you want your child to brush their teeth after breakfast and before bed, be sure to stick to that schedule in order to make it easier for both parties.
• Make sure to have a timer on hand, this way your child knows to brush their teeth until the timer goes off. Since those on the autism spectrum usually need to know when a particular task is over and don’t like unpredictability, give them a way to know when it will end.