It is important for every child to have regular dental examinations. Parents of children with autism may wonder how thorough and successful an appointment can be due to challenges brought on by this condition.
To get a complete understanding and to help your child cope with dental appointments, keep the following in mind:
Distinctive dental issues.
There are some inherent dental issues facing those with autism, and the medications used to treat autistic patients can have damaging effects on the teeth. Children that display self-injurious behaviors, such as biting their mouth or eating non-edible items (pica) can cause trauma to the teeth and gums, requiring dental intervention. Some other distinct issues include:
- Risk of dental caries which comes from diets high in soft, sticky, or sweet food.
- Increased salivation due to the medications frequently given to autistic children, often which contain high amounts of sugar.
- Tooth eruptions due to hyperplasia, caused by prescribed Phenytoin.
- Injury to teeth and mouth due to seizure activity.
Communicating dental procedures to a child with autism may be a difficult task, and the child may become resistant or frightened during the process. Explain to the provider your child's intellectual abilities so that they can interact with your child appropriately, and in a manner that the child will comprehend. Many dentists may take an approach of explaining the procedure followed by showing the child how it is done and what tools are used, before beginning the procedure on the child.
The reactions and physical responses of children with autism can make dental appointments tricky. The unpredictable body movements demonstrated can compromise the examination, as well as cause risk of harm and injury to the child.
Prepare for these physical responses:
- Reactions to stimuli. Consistency is key with dental patients with autism; also, be mindful of the stimuli in the room. Keep lighting dim, colors muted, and sounds should be low.
- Seizure activity. Be sure the child has had their anti-seizure medications prior to dental appointments (if applicable), and notify the dentist of any identified risk factors or triggers whenever possible.
- Unpredictable movements. The best way to prepare for the unpredictable and often unusual movements that can accompany autism is to watch for patterns. If the dentist is able to detect a pattern of movement, they may be able to work around this. Also, ask for staff to clear a path from the check-in area of your dental office to the chair prior to seeing the dentist. This will eliminate the risk of injury, damage, and chaos during the transfer.
Kids with autism are just as prone to periodontal disease and tooth loss as any other patient, and for this reason, regular dental care and cleanings are key. Try to prepare the child and yourself for an upcoming appointment by talking with your dental provider and reviewing the inherent challenges that your child may demonstrate. Visit http://www.nwidentist.com/ for more information.