Children with autism face many challenges, many of them being our normal, daily activities. Growing up with a special needs sibling introduced the challenges, heartache, dedication, and attention to detail required to live a full life for those with disabilities. Things like school, social activities, and personal interaction are always challenging for those with autism, but everyday tasks are sometimes the most difficult. Changing clothes, taking a shower, brushing your teeth are often a constant source of struggle for the one with autism and their caregivers. Everyone deserves the opportunity for good health, personal care, and oral hygiene, and significant advances have been made to help those with autism. Let’s look at ways to make oral care special for those with autism and give suggestions to make it easier for their caregivers.
Oral Care Tips And Tools
Autism itself comes with many sensory issues, different for each person. A dentist’s office can be full of challenges for those who struggle with lights, sounds, touch, and social anxieties. Taking care of our dental health is an essential part of our overall health, so regular dental visits are vital for everyone, especially those with autism. Children with autism need to see their dentist regularly, just like everyone else. Easier said than done; I know that for a fact! What are some ways, tips, tricks, and insights to make dental visits a reality for children with autism? Researching and consulting with some dentists and hygienists, they suggest:
- Start oral care early, even when they are babies. This will help them because they will be used to having their mouth/gums cleaned several times a day, so as you graduate to a toothbrush, they aren’t alarmed or scared by having someone brush their teeth. Brilliant Oral Care has Tooth Tissues, mouth wipes for babies (or for all ages) that contain xylitol. Fluoride-free and completely safe, these baby teeth wipes can be used to wipe baby’s mouth, gums, cheeks, and tongue after feedings to cleanse away milk residue and prevent bacteria from sticking to the mouth or gums. When no tooth tissues are available, a damp washcloth works well. By starting your baby off doing oral care, they grow up being familiar with you helping them clean their mouth and teeth, making it a normal part of the everyday routine, and routine is key for those with autism
- After the first tooth appears, start with a good baby toothbrush, like the Brilliant Baby Toothbrush, by brushing their teeth from the very beginning. This is the best infant toothbrush to try on their new teeth, and the best way to help them be familiar with good oral care habits each and every day
- Do your research and find a pediatric dentist that specializes in treating children with special needs. Pediatric dentistry practices will often have a dentist/hygienist that is trained and experienced in helping children with autism and special needs
- Keep at-home oral care consistent and an integrated part of their daily routine
- Find a special toothbrush for your child’s unique circumstances. The Brilliant Special Soft Toothbrush was created for those with special oral sensitivities, including autism and sensory issues. This autism toothbrush with its soft, sensitive bristles can aid you as you seek to give the best oral care possible to your loved one
- Part of the positive reinforcement of daily oral care habits will come from you also showing them you take care of your teeth the same way you take care of theirs
- Restricting sugary foods and sticky foods from their diet and encouraging healthy fruits and vegetables will help their teeth stay healthy with less opportunity for tooth decay
- If you are not able to brush all their teeth in one session, that is fine, break it up into several bruising times. The important thing is that all their teeth get brushed
- Floss their teeth for them
- Talk with your dental office, hygienist, dentist before a visit. Update them on how your child is doing and with any information that can help the dental visit go smoother
You Know Them Best
At the end of the day, you know your child/loved one better than anyone, so you do what you know deep down is the best thing for them. I’ll never forget growing up, people saw my special needs brother and constantly tried to tell my parents how to take care of him, discipline him, and meet his needs, none of which actually had a special child or a medical license to give out that kind of advice. My parents smiled through gritted teeth, but I knew it bothered them. You are the only one who has to walk in your shoes, so you know best the one you care for. Trust what your heart tells you is the best way to take care of them and be in constant contact with their doctors, therapists, dentist, and those in the medical field that have a vested interest in the best quality of life possible for the one entrusted to your care.
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