Maintaining good dental care at home is crucial for children with autism to ensure healthy teeth and gums. By establishing a regular dental care routine at home, parents can help their children maintain good oral hygiene. This contributes to their overall physical health and also improves their quality of life by reducing the likelihood of dental pain or discomfort. With a little creativity and patience, you can develop a dental care routine that works for your child with autism and promote lifelong habits of good dental health. Here are a few ways you can achieve it.
Use a Soft Toothbrush
If your child with autism has sensory issues or sensitivities to touch and does not want to use a toothbrush, it is important to only use a soft toothbrush to help encourage them to brush their teeth. Start by introducing the toothbrush to your child without toothpaste, so they can get used to the feel of the bristles. Gradually increase the amount of toothpaste as they become more comfortable. Before brushing, offer your child a chew toy or crunchy snack to provide oral sensory input – this can help prepare them for the feeling of the toothbrush in their mouth. Try a smaller toothbrush head as it can be less intimidating for your child and may be easier to manoeuvre in their mouths.
Electric toothbrushes can also assist in providing stimulation. The gentle vibration of the toothbrush can provide sensory input that can be soothing. Additionally, vibrating toothbrushes can be more effective in removing plaque and food particles than manual toothbrushes, which can help improve oral health. Consult with your child’s dentist at the special needs pediatric dentistry to determine if an electric toothbrush is appropriate for your child’s specific needs.
Though most children brush their teeth in the bathroom, you might want to do it somewhere else in your home where your child feels more at ease to accommodate them and help them get used to it.
Use a non-foaming and unflavoured toothpaste
You must understand your child’s sensory needs and preferences to develop an effective dental care routine. Some children may struggle with strong flavours and the sensation of foaming toothpaste. Instead of using highly flavoured toothpaste, use unflavored and non-foaming toothpaste to help make brushing teeth a more comfortable experience for your child. Speak to a pediatric dentist for autism near you to decide which toothpaste is right for your child. Help your child brush by making them stand in front of a mirror as it may help them feel more in control of the situation. You can help your child learn brushing techniques by singing songs like “Brushing My Teeth” by Barney or “This is the way we brush our teeth” from Little Baby Bum.
Use a flavoured floss
Start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch to get them used to the sensation. Flossing is an important part of dental care, and you can help your child develop good oral hygiene habits by using flavoured floss. The pleasant taste of flavoured floss can make flossing a more enjoyable and less overwhelming experience for them. To make it interesting, use pictures or videos to demonstrate how to floss and explain why it is important for their oral health and let them choose their favourite flavour. Make sure to check the ingredients in flavoured floss to ensure that they are safe and free from potential allergens. Consult with a kids specialist in Dubai to determine the best type of floss for your child’s specific needs.
Present visual cues
Children with autism who have trouble communicating verbally frequently benefit from visual assistance. You can use visual support to communicate information in a way that is easier for them to understand than spoken words. Create a visual schedule for your child that contains pictures that symbolise their dental regimen. For instance, to indicate that your child must brush their teeth between dinner and bedtime, place a picture of a toothbrush after a picture of their food and before a picture of their pajamas. Another visual cue is to use a timer as it can help your child with autism understand when they need to stop brushing. By setting a timer, you can establish a consistent brushing routine and help your child with autism understand how long they need to brush their teeth. Setting a timer ensures that your child brushes their teeth for the recommended amount of time, which is two minutes. It also helps establish a predictable routine, which can be reassuring for your child who thrives on structure and routine and becomes more independent with their brushing routine.
Positive reinforcement and rewards
By using positive reinforcement and reward systems, you can encourage your child to maintain good dental health habits, which can improve their overall oral health and well-being. Create a chart to track your child’s brushing and flossing habits and offer rewards for consistent and successful routines. Use positive language to reinforce good habits, such as “great job brushing your teeth!” Offer small rewards, such as stickers or a favourite activity, for successful brushing and flossing routines. Make brushing and flossing fun by turning it into a game or competition – hide small treasures or treats around the house and have your child “find” them with floss. This will make flossing feel like a game.
Visit a dentist who has experience treating children with autism
Regular dental visits can prevent dental problems, improve oral hygiene, and promote good overall health. Therefore, seeking out a dentist with special needs dentistry experience is a vital step in ensuring your child with autism receives the dental care they need.
Children with autism often have difficulty with sensory processing, communication, and social interaction, which can make a trip to the dentist overwhelming and stressful. A dentist who has experience working with children with autism will have specialised knowledge and skills to make the experience as comfortable and safe as possible. They can provide a calm and supportive environment, use sensory-friendly techniques, and tailor the treatment to meet the unique needs of your child.
Children with autism benefit from Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy in both their daily life and dental treatment. Dr. Yasmin uses ABA tools with the following goals in mind:
- To properly assist the parents in preparing for the forthcoming dental appointment.
- To teach the child the importance of regular dental visits.
- To enable children and parents alike to relax before the dental visit — No more anxious children prior to dental appointments.
To show the child what to expect during their visit to the dentist for autism in Dubai including the paediatric dentistry office, the dentist, and everything else.
About Dr. Yasmin Kottait: Having dedicated 16 years of her career to spreading smiles and imparting knowledge of oral hygiene to children, Dr. Yasmin is a renowned name and face in the field of pediatric dentistry in Dubai. Her joyful personality and magical kid-whispering powers make dental appointments for kids an easy sail – and lots of fun, that they never miss a single dental appointment with her! Her two most recent accomplishments were receiving a cognitive-based hypnotherapy diploma from the UK, which would give her therapies the much-needed psychological depth, and an additional qualification in working with children with autism.