Navigating the Challenges of Dental Care for Children with Autism
Why Are Children with Autism at Risk for Dental Problems?
- Damaging oral habits, such as picking gums and grinding teeth.
- Dietary preferences that increase risk of cavities, such as food items high in sugar or soft foods that stick to the teeth.
- Trauma from injurious falls. For example, seizures are a common comorbid disorder with autism, putting those individuals at risk for trauma to the mouth.
How Can Parents Prepare Their Child with Autism for a Dentist Visit?
Preparing a Child with Autism Before an Exam
Talk to the Child’s Dentist
- Can you provide information on what will happen during the exam so I can help prepare my child for a visit?
This information can aid parents in using desensitization tactics to help their child through the exam process.
- Will this exam be the same every time my child comes in?
Routine is important for many individuals on the autism spectrum. Following the same process lets the child know what to expect and feel comfortable.
- Do you allow other adults to be in the room during an exam or dental procedure?
Being present as a parent or having a child’s ABA therapist in the room to provide reinforcements can help the child remain calm, allowing the dentist to complete the dental work.
- The child’s diagnosis. Be straight forward in sharing that the child has autism spectrum disorder.
- Behaviors the child may exhibit during the exam. This allows the dental team to prepare for factors that may interfere with the exam process.
- Sensitivities to stimuli. The dentist may have solutions for minimizing bright lights, sounds, and other stimuli that may be uncomfortable.