Autism Dental Care: What is needed..


What is Autism Dental Care?

Autism Dental Care is about how to care for the teeth of your autistic relative or ward. Those who live with autism have many and differing challenges to their lives. Autism is one of those medical conditions – which up to now – we don’t know what causes it, and thus we don’t have a cure for it. Read more about it here… However, we are learning more and more about how to care for autistic people.

Autism is very much a spectrum, and people with autism will have different abilities and needs. There is a great need for more people to understand what autism is, and how to behave in situations with autistic people, especially children. Unfortunately, I have found that even social workers and health professionals need more education. 

Autistic Child

Autism Dental Care

As a dentist, I see a wide range of patients; and some of my patients are autistic (both children and adults). As with all people, regular check-ups (examinations) are recommended to detect any issues in the mouth and teeth, and to deal with them as soon as possible.

Regular dentists may not be able to treat all autistic patients, as some will be very wary of others “being in their mouths”, and this becomes even harder if there is a need for local anaesthetic or the use of a drill. Often, a referral will need to be made to a special needs dentist or the community dental service.

However, this can’t happen without regular dental check-ups.

I understand that it can be a challenge to bring an autistic relative to see the dentist. In addition to that, there are other challenges, which I mention here.

Autism Dental Care

Challenges to Autism Dental Care

Brushing Teeth

It is common for children with autism to clench their teeth closed as the toothbrush gets close to their mouth, or when it is in their mouths. This may pose as a challenge. Equally, getting an effective brush may be difficult. This might be because they don’t like the feel of the toothbrush on their teeth and inside their mouth. You can solve this problem by getting a soft brush with soft bristles or even an electric toothbrush – some children with autism enjoy the vibrations.
[I have found that soft bristle brushes tend to splay quickly and so expect to change it regularly].

Autistic children like routine to their daily activities and routine. So, try to make brushing the teeth as routine as possible. This can be done, by sticking to a fixed schedule or system of doing that. It might involve playing a tune that they like which can be specifically linked to this activity.

If you can capture their attention with videos, having a YouTube video which helps them to mimic brushing or “play” along, then that can be a useful tool. Here’s an example that I like:

Toothpaste

Many autistic people struggle with sensory matters. This may be noises, visual stimuli or taste. When it comes to oral health, this may be related to having a toothpaste that is taste-neutral. Most children can’t handle the strong mint taste of most toothpastes. In this case, I recommend to try either a flavour-less toothpaste, or one which is naturally flavoured, and free from any colourings, etc. Naturally flavoured toothpaste usually have only a mild taste that can easily be rinsed away, and is often a good choice for anyone with sensitivities to strong flavours.

Here is an appropriate unflavoured alternative:

Oranurse Unflavoured

Some children also struggle with the texture of toothpaste, if it is gritty. I recommend a gel or toothpaste for kids that are designed specifically without a gritty texture. Gel toothpaste is no different than other toothpaste on the market, and they come in many different flavours.

Some children with sensory issues just don’t like the foaming that comes with some toothpastes. When brushing teeth with an autistic child, dentists may recommend a paste that doesn’t foam. 

Oranurse Unflavoured

Conclusion

Autism dental care is an important part of the whole care for the autistic individual. It is important to help the child (or adult) with their care, if needed. This includes:

  • making sure that their teeth are being brushed well and regularly. (may need special toothpaste)
  • monitoring their diet for sugar and acid content, (and reducing it)
  • regular dental appointments

Learn more about Autism
Autism Eye

Your vital source of in-depth autism information and advice

6 thoughts on “Autism Dental Care: What is needed..

  1. Jenni Elliott 08/07/2022 at 2:50 pm

    This is a great article about autism dental care. I am sure that your very sound advice will help many people who are caring for an autistic child or adult. I must admit that I had no idea that these types of issues are faced in dental care with people on the spectrum. I shall certainly guide friends and family, who are in this situation, to your website. Thank you for this well thought out guide.

  2. pasindu dimanka 10/07/2022 at 10:43 am

    Many thanks for this valuable and comprehensive Autism Dental care post. I actually learned a lot about autism dental care from this post that I didn’t know before. Also, the video you have attached is very important. I will definitely try the toothpaste you have recommended. Thank you very much for that recommendation. Keep posting like this.

    • admin 12/07/2022 at 11:51 am

      Thanks Pasindu for your comments. It’s good that you have learnt some new stuff.

      Autism is increasing in the world today, for reasons unbeknown to us, and there is a need to educate more and more people about it.

  3. Marita 11/07/2022 at 10:27 pm

    Hi,

    Yes, autistic kids and grown-ups love routines and your advice about making brushing a regular schedule is very relevant.

    Regarding choosing their toothpastes to address their sensory issues, parents might need to do trial and error many times before their kids can choose what they really want or are comfortable with the.

    Very eye-opening post.

    Thanks,

    Marita

  4. lou 14/07/2022 at 3:14 pm

    Hi your article is great and I’m glad there are people like you who write articles like this. I don’t have much experience with autism but I think it’s good that you taught me something. I always like to deal with such social issues, because otherwise it always gets neglected. I hope more people who are interested in this topic will come to your website and be well informed.

  5. LineCowley 16/07/2022 at 1:44 am

    Caring for a child or an adult with autism, can be a challenge, and that includes making sure that they have a healthy dental care routine. I have a niece who has autism, and I have seen how much she wants routine, as it is then part of her familiar framework. Anything new can be a challenge for her, so has to be introduced slowly.

    Thankfully we have a dentist in the family that she knows and is familiar with, so her first visit to the dentist was less traumatic than some autistic kids might experience. If you do have an autistic child, I would suggest that you choose a dentist that knows how to deal with patients that are on the spectrum. 

    Thank you for sharing your insights.

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