Oral hygiene is an essential part of a person’s overall health, but it can often be a struggle for children with autism, particularly among those with sensory issues. For example, the taste and texture of toothpaste and the toothbrush may be difficult for some children to handle, making it hard to incorporate best practices in dental hygiene as part of their daily routine. For parents struggling to help their child maintain their oral health, we sat down and spoke with Travis Nelson, DDS, MPH and have created a video that offers tips and tricks on how to overcome the challenges you may be experiencing with your child on this matter.
We have also outlined some of these recommendations below:
- Brush teeth at least once daily. Maintaining a healthy mouth can be achieved by brushing the teeth at least once a day, but if you are able to brush more often, great!
- Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride toothpaste is one of the best tools available to fight tooth decay. Try experimenting with different brands and flavors to find one that your child likes. If your child is not able to tolerate the taste or texture of the paste, you can try dipping the toothpaste in a fluoride containing mouth rinse to reduce the foam.
- Create a daily routine. Make daily oral hygiene a part of your home routine and consider requesting that it be added to your child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) during school. This will help to establish consistency and predictability in your child’s schedule.
- Minimize sugary snacks. Children who eat sugar frequently are more likely to get cavities. We recommend snacks such as fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, cold cut meats, nuts and plain popcorn. It is likely that your child may have a limited number of foods that they prefer, but when possible, substitute sugar-free versions – including drinks!
Regular dentist visits are another aspect of maintaining good oral health. Most pediatric dentists regularly treat children with autism. Be sure to let the dentist’s office know that your child has autism as they may be able to make special accommodations such as seeing you in a private area that is less stimulating. If you have a difficult time finding a dentist, ask your child’s physician for a referral.
Prior to your child’s visit with their dentist, there are several ways you can prepare. First, we recommend talking with the dentist’s office about what to expect. It might also be a good idea to schedule an introductory visit for your child to see the office and meet the staff before any treatment is performed. It is also helpful to set expectations with your child about what a dental visit will include. Finally, if your child uses an iPod or iPad, there are apps available that might be helpful in preparing for a dental visit, such as Off We Go- Going to the Dentist (by Kiwa Media) or encouraging dental hygiene, like My Healthy Smile (by Fraser).
As we have mentioned before, all children are different and certain treatment methods or recommendations that might work for one child often do not for another. The UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry is currently working with experts from the Seattle Children’s Autism Center on a project that aims to improve interactions in the dental office as well as oral home care for children with autism. The study is still in its infancy, but the hope is to learn more about techniques and approaches to improve oral health for children with autism.
If you have any tips or tricks that have worked for your child, we encourage you to share them in our comments section.
My son (age 7) has a lot of sensory issues, and what has worked for us is the “if I do yours, you can do mine” approach. We use this for tooth brushing, ear cleaning and nail clipping. We use hand over hand when it’s his turn to do ours, and he gets a big kick out of it. He still squirms and we have to stop several times during the process, but in the end, it all gets done without having to hold him down.
I hope this approach will help another family.
Speech-Language Pathologists, especially those trained in pediatric swallowing/feeding, can work with children on desenistizing them to help facilitate oral care. I work with severely impacted children in public schools and include facial/oral desensitization on IEP’s.
Yes Oral hygiene is very important, daily routine and fluoride toothpaste is very good vay to care for your teeth. Brushing teeth once per day is routine that takes care of the health of your teeth.
I am feeling pleasure to find such information through your blog. Nice work done. Please keep posting.
Thank you for sharing this post about the dental bonding, this is a big help for me and to the others too. Thanks again
Great information. Keep up the good work!
Hmmmm Interesting mate! 😀
Once again we have Children’s Hospital “experts” commenting on how to’s for parents of Autistic Children. SCH, still to this day refuses to acknowledge or treat Autism as a medical disease – despite overwhelming research based and anecdotal evidence.
This blog has a doctor condoning the use of Flouride for dental care in a frequently immune fragile population.
What you should know about Flouride:
Fluoride has several mechanisms of toxicity. Ingested fluoride initially acts locally on the intestinal mucosa. It can form hydrofluoric acid in the stomach, which leads to GI irritation or corrosive effects. Following ingestion, the GI tract is the earliest and most commonly affected organ system.
Once absorbed, fluoride binds calcium ions and may lead to hypocalcemia. Fluoride has direct cytotoxic effects and interferes with a number of enzyme systems; it disrupts oxidative phosphorylation, glycolysis, coagulation, and neurotransmission (by binding calcium). Fluoride inhibits Na+/K+ -ATPase, which may lead to hyperkalemia by extracellular release of potassium. Fluoride inhibits acetylcholinesterase, which may be partly responsible for hypersalivation, vomiting, and diarrhea (cholinergic signs). Seizures may result from both hypomagnesemia and hypocalcemia. Severe fluoride toxicity will result in multiorgan failure. Central vasomotor depression as well as direct cardiotoxicity also may occur. Death usually results from respiratory paralysis, dysrhythmia, or cardiac failure.
Many municipal water systems are banning its use.Do your own research before you decide that additional flouride is a good idea for your child.
I am continually impressed by the concern and dedication shown by so many of the parents and caregivers of my patients. There is nothing that makes me happier than knowing that those who care most intimately for my patients so genuinely guard their well being. As anyone responsible for a child with special needs knows, the individuals closest to the child understand them best and are most well equipped to look out for their interests.
From a medical standpoint, over 50 research studies have shown fluoride to be safe for use when applied as directed. Additionally, fluoride is closely regulated by the government to ensure that people are not exposed at harmful levels.
It is important for every parent or caregiver to make medical decisions that they feel are appropriate for their family. If they feel that fluoride is not appropriate for their child, it is particularly important to be diligent in other aspects of oral care. This includes practicing meticulous oral hygiene and reducing factors in the child’s diet which can predispose them to dental caries. I would also encourage parents and caregivers to talk with their child’s health care provider and dentist about any concerns.
For more information on fluoride, including the fluoride content of your water visit the following websites:
Dr. Travis Nelson