Helping children with autism maintain good oral health is an important responsibility for parents, caregivers and children’s dentistry providers. While it can be challenging to help someone with complex developmental disabilities regularly clean and care for their teeth, the task becomes easier when you understand what approach works best. In honor of World Autism Day on April 2nd, here are a few strategies you can use to help children with autism maintain good oral health.
People with autism often have a hard time adjusting to changes in their environment and may act out when an oral caregiver attempts to treat or clean their teeth. Scheduling a “desensitization” appointment is a great way to help someone with autism feel more comfortable in a dental office. To familiarize your loved one with the dentist, the office environment and common dental tools, have him or her sit in the treatment chair for a while. If possible, give the patient a few minutes alone so he or she can become comfortable in the new environment before receiving a gentle oral examination.
Before brushing or examining the teeth of someone who has autism, try using a “tell-show-do” approach to minimize anxiety. You can do this by first explaining each part of a procedure, then showing the patient how the procedure will be performed and what tools will be used. Demonstrations can help children with autism understand what is happening to them and can encourage cooperation.
All children love to be praised for good behavior, so make that the focus of each dental checkup. Whenever possible, ignore inappropriate behavior (unless it’s harmful or self-injurious) and reinforce good behavior throughout each dental procedure. Only use immobilization techniques if absolutely necessary for the safety of the child and/or those providing care.
Drs. Donna Miller, Michelle Hinds, and Austin Green are experienced providers of children’s dentistry services. They know how to help all patients, including children with autism, feel relaxed and comfortable while receiving treatment. To schedule your appointment today, call Creekwood Dental Arts.