With more and more children being diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, dentists are learning more about how to treat these kids and ensure they get quality dental care.
But treating autistic children can be a challenge: In 2008, The Journal of the American Dental Association published a study that found autism patients were much more likely to need general anesthesia because they could not cooperate in the dental chair.
As the parent of an autistic child, you have a lot of health issues to be concerned about - but proper oral hygiene is very important. How can you help ensure your child maintains healthy teeth and gums?
1. Find a knowledgeable pediatric dentist.
Because there are more kids on the spectrum than ever before, more children's dentists are learning techniques for ensuring cooperation from autistic patients.
A knowledgeable children's dentist who manages kids with autism may:
- Have trained dental assistants and hygienists who can work with autistic children.
- Be willing to schedule weekly visits and work with kids until they are familiar with the procedures.
- Employ a program like the D-Termined Program of Familiarization and Sequential Tasking which helps divide the new skills an autistic child must master during a trip to the dentist's office. Using this program, many autistic kids should be able to learn how to sit quietly in the dental chair, count teeth, and then allow dental office staff to look inside their mouths.
- Offer regular breaks and rewards for good behavior.
The goal of the "desensitizing" process is to get kids familiar with what to expect at the dentist's office and then be able to sit through procedures that will improve oral health.
2. Practice skills at home.
Because dental work so often features new sensory activities that may upset an autistic child, it's important to practice at home. Dental offices can provide supplies like a disposable mirror and fluoride trays to get the patient used to having new and different objects in his or her mouth.
3. Work on good hygiene habits at home.
Autistic kids may not eat as well as other children because of their sensory issues. They may also struggle to brush and floss their teeth. Consistent work at home on these issues can help ensure that there will be fewer oral hygiene issues for dentists to deal with.
Whatever happens, and however much trouble you have getting your autistic child to manage his or her behavior at the dentist's office, it's important to be patient and keep trying. One bad experience doesn't mean you have to give up on keeping your child's mouth healthy. Talk to your pediatric dentist about ways to desensitize and work with your son or daughter until regular cleanings and other dental procedures are comfortable.
For more help, contact a company like Montefiore Medical Center to learn more.