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Helping Children with Autism Maintain Their Oral Hygiene

Children, in general, often struggle to maintain their oral hygiene and keep their teeth and gums clean. But children who have special needs often struggle more than average with brushing and flossing their teeth. Autism, in particular, can make oral hygiene a struggle due to sensory overload and executive dysfunction. However, failure to maintain proper brushing and flossing can often lead to severe oral health consequences down the line. Helping your child create healthy oral hygiene habits today could help them protect their oral health and their overall wellness in the future.

Autism can have an impact on the oral hygiene of your child

How Autism Affects Oral Hygiene

Thanks to advances in psychology and research, we know more about how autism works and affects our brains. Many patients with autism suffer from sensory issues that make it impossible to brush or floss using normal methods. Some patients may have a negative reaction to the feel of the brush on their teeth. Others may avoid toothpaste due to the smell or taste. And some could struggle to remember all the steps of cleaning their teeth. If your child struggles with their oral hygiene, here are some tips to help set them up for success.

Experiment with Toothpaste and Brushes

Sensory issues often play a major role in how well someone reacts to brushing their teeth. Forcing a child with autism to use the same toothpaste or brushes as other family members can cause both physical and emotional harm. Instead, take the time to experiment with different brushes and toothpaste. Your dentist may be able to provide you with some sample bottles of toothpaste or different brushes to help you find the right fit for your child. Each patient is different, so it’s important to try to figure out exactly what causes a sensory issue so you can narrow down your search.

Appeal to Their Special Interests

Many patients with autism tend to have special interests that could help them complete everyday tasks. Making brushing their teeth fun by using that special interest can help cultivate a positive association with oral hygiene. For example, you could play their favorite show or movie while they brush and floss their teeth. Or you could decorate their toothbrush and toothpaste tubes with stickers or colors that appeal to them. This can often help encourage your child to brush their teeth or even get them excited about oral hygiene.

Use Stimulation or Distractions

If you are having trouble finding the right kind of toothpaste or brush, it can also help to provide distractions. Some patients, for example, get overstimulated by the sound of the brush against their teeth. Encouraging them to wear headphones and listen to some calming music could help distract them from that sound. Others may get understimulated and stop brushing before two minutes have passed. You may want to encourage them to use fidget toys or watch a video to help keep them occupied for the full length of time.

Dentistry for Children with Autism in Worcester, MA

Autism can make it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene habits, but there are ways to help make it easier. At Children’s Dental Specialties, we’re dedicated to helping all children achieve good oral hygiene, no matter what. If your child struggles with their oral hygiene, call us at (508) 625-5534 to schedule a consultation and see how we could help.