Anyone who cares for an autistic child will know the difficulties involved in teaching day to day routine tasks and basic hygiene. Depending on the severity of the autism, oral health can be a particular cause for concern and there is some evidence to suggest that autistic children are particularly prone to a range of dentistry problems.
Part of this is likely to be decay caused by relatively high levels of sugar in the diet, as sweets are often given as incentives and generally dietary preferences are quite limited anyway. In addition to this, autistic children often clench and grind teeth and it’s also not uncommon to see erosion as a result of regurgitation.
Developing a routine
Given the propensity for oral healthcare problems it’s all the more vital that caregivers can inculcate a sense of hygiene and develop a routine with the child that includes brushing and visits to the dentist. As Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation has said, “Many children with autism do not have the capacity to read and comprehend the feelings, experiences and motives of others and can have difficulty understanding the need for things many of us find simple. We have found that such activities like toothbrushing and dental visits can be particularly stressful for children with autism, as well as those with other learning difficulties, which can lead to increased levels of oral health disease.”
This is where dentistry stories come in. The Oral Health Foundation is backing the use of highly visual stories to help autistic children understand why they need to brush their teeth and visit the dentist. Parents of autistic children will possible be familiar with the technique which works by encouraging empathy and a deeper understanding of day to day tasks The stories can be delivered via a wide variety for media from picture books to video. Recent research, published in Special Care in Dentistry found that 64% of caregivers felt that they were a useful tool.
To find out more you can visit the web pages of the Oral Health Foundation