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09Oct2014

Autism and Dental Care

DENTAL CARE AND HYGIENE PLAY  a very important part in the overall physical well being of a child. Though dental care may be a routine for many of us, it is particularly challenging for children with Autism. Autism is a neural developmental disorder commonly characterized as emotional disconnect, verbal disconnect, and/or social disconnect.

Autism is not a disease where all the patients exhibit common symptoms and respond to similar treatment. Each individual case tends to be unique and has to be treated as such. The degree and type of autism plays an important part in determining both the dental hygiene practices to be followed at home and the dental treatment/care to be administered by our pediatric dentist. Dental hygiene, as part of our day to day life is a bit more complex in the lives of the autistic children. Depending on their degree of independence, certain life style and dietary modifications/precautions are necessary to achieve proper oral hygiene:

  • Reduced sugar intake.
  • Finding alternates/substitutes to sugar where possible.
  • Asking the doctor to prescribe sugar free medicines in cases where taking daily medicines is a necessity.
  • Avoiding soft drinks, juice.
  • Encouraging and enforcing regular brushing.

This may be easier said than done, however there is no substitute for brushing and flossing twice a day. In order to establish relationship with the child, regular visits to the dentist are mandatory, and periodic check up and cleaning is strongly advised. 

Healthcare professionals such as our office, are aware of the special needs of their autistic patients and tailor their treatment accordingly. Some of the steps and precautions that are mandated while dealing with patients with autism:

  • Minimize waiting time – schedule their appointment first available in the morning, or first one in the afternoon such that they are rushed right into the treatment room. This can help decrease their anxiety.
  • Keep talking to reassure – We always try to explain what you are about to do. Try to reassure the patient and do not do anything all of a sudden.
  • Follow the same routine – Taking on a patient with autism is a big responsibility. We make notes in our system, and when the child visits us next time, we follow the same routine, with the same personal to make the child more comfortable.
  • Allow the companion/care giver to be present during treatment – This can help in having a calming effect on the patient or help the staff in dealing with the child.
  • Allocate enough time – Do not try to rush things. Whenever possible, try to schedule the treatment over multiple sessions to reduce anxiety.
  • Be patient – Autistic patients might exhibit anxiety related behavior during the course of the treatment. It is important that the healthcare professionals recognize this and deal with this in the best possible manner.

Though it is a bit challenging, with proper care and attention to details we make dental care a lot easier for the autistic children and their families.

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