Brushing Teeth for Children with Autism
We were recently approached by a parent of an autistic child to aid on Tooth brushing. As simple as one might imagine for daily routine among young children, yet it poses a serious challenge. Overcoming brushing teeth for children with special needs is often one of the most common issue faced by hypersensitive autistic children, they feel things differently a to non-autistic developing child.
Sound of friction between toothbrush and teeth, minty taste, smells, and semi solid texture of toothpaste in mouth can be overwhelming that leads to meltdowns, often unexpected and severe intimidation to engage this daily activity.
Through talking to parents who have suffered with frustration and anguish at not being able to make tooth brushing a positive experience, some even going so far as to having to restrain their child in the name of dental hygiene.
It may be the rugged textured toothbrush, minty toothpaste, or delayed motor skill development of a child. The key of independent toothbrushing requires constant effort and patience in raising the hygiene standard of oral health which will carry throughout the child’s lifespan. In other severe cases of autistic children, some like to chew on the brush than doing the motion of brushing.
We suggest you break down the task into micro-steps in a calm safe environment. This will show your child that it’s ok and fun to do. Once they get the hang of it you can be confident that the initial dental struggles are behind you. It may take a couple of months for your child to get the hang of it but it’s very much worth persevering with.
Top Tips to successful transition
When moving back to a conventional toothbrush, here are our 5 tips to easing the process for you both.
1. Let your child do the bulk of the brushing, initially don’t worry about the results, this will empower your child and make them feel more in control.
2. Try a reinforcer rewards system but use a star chart rather than sweet rewards!
3. Find a silly song to sing whilst brushing, this will encourage on the motion of rhythm and make the time fun and interactive.
4. Trial variation of toothpaste and mouthwash if your child struggles with flavours and texture.
5. Set a designated time and make it a routine and do it together with you child (mirror-image). Educate every aspect to your child so that they understand what is going to happen.