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Oral Health for Loved Ones with Autism

April 15, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — gentledentistry @ 2:34 am
person helping child with autism brush their teeth

Did you know that about 1 in 160 children worldwide has autism, according to the World Health Organization? In the U.S., around 2% of adults have autism. April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, a chance to learn how to support people with autism. For example, people with autism often have more dental problems. Keep reading to find out why and how to improve dental health for your family!

Why Are Autistic People More Likely to Have Dental Dilemmas?

A 2017 study found that 85.2% of autistic children aged seven to 14 had cavities in their permanent teeth, compared to 41.7% of children in the general population. Several factors may contribute to the higher risk of oral health issues in children with ASD, such as:

  • Medication: Nearly 45% of children and adolescents with autism take medications to help manage their symptoms. However, these medications often have side effects, including toothaches, dry mouth, overgrown gums, changes in salivation, and altered taste.
  • Motor disturbances: Autism spectrum disorder and some prescribed medications can cause movement difficulties, which may disrupt regular oral hygiene routines like brushing twice a day and flossing daily.
  • Tooth grinding: Many children with autism grind their teeth, a condition called bruxism. This habit can quickly wear down their teeth, increasing the risk of damage or breakage. It can also lead to misaligned teeth, making them harder to clean.
  • Anxiety: Patients with autism often experience intense fear of dental visits due to sensory overload. This fear can lead to missed appointments and untreated dental problems.

How Can I Help?

If you’re caring for a loved one with ASD who has unique dental needs, there are several ways to help them maintain good oral hygiene. Consider the following:

  • Oral motor tools: If they are sensitive to sensations, they might resist brushing their teeth. Instead, try gently wiping their mouth with a dry cloth. You can also choose a mild, non-spicy toothpaste that will not overwhelm their taste buds.
  • Timers: For individuals having difficulty concentrating, offering a timer can assist them in maintaining focus during teeth and gum brushing.
  • Noise-canceling headphones: To alleviate the overwhelming echoes of a bathroom, consider providing noise-canceling headphones to your loved one. These can help reduce anxiety by blocking unwanted sounds.

For more advice on supporting your loved one’s oral health, consider consulting their dentist. Drawing from experience with diverse patients, the dentist may provide valuable insights and recommendations.

About the Practice

At Gentle Dentistry Sparta, Dr. Zelia Cannon, Dr. James Shahinian, and their team strive to assist patients of all ages in achieving and preserving excellent oral health. Dedicated to serving the Carrollton community, they provide a wide array of services, from regular checkups to advanced procedures. Their approach emphasizes compassion and attentiveness, ensuring that each patient’s unique needs are understood and addressed. For your loved one with autism in need of a checkup, contact Gentle Dentistry Sparta at (973) 729-9044 or visit their website.

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