When parents are faced with the challenges of raising an autistic child or children, they may be at a loss as to how to encourage the special soul on how to practice oral hygiene. Despite the love and guidance they try to bring, the brushing and flossing may be where the biggest struggle is. We at Smile Reef would like share how you can help your little ones with autism practice excellent oral hygiene.
Please keep in mind these are merely suggestions, each child is different and as their parent, you know the best approach and application with any of these steps.
Ideas for How to Get Autistic Children to Brush & Care for Teeth
1) Offer Choice. Many kids respond well to choice. Allowing them to select their own toothbrush; show them the different colors, styles, and even themes. Many kids do better with a vibrating toothbrush as they search for sensory. In addition to choosing their own toothbrush, have them select a flavor toothpaste and floss.
2) Celebrate and Reward. Offering praise when they brush their own teeth and floss, no matter how good or bad of a job they did is important upon completion. Simply celebrate the child entering the bathroom to perform the hygiene ritual. Praise them as they prepare the toothbrush by running it on the water, followed by the application of toothpaste. Continue to offer the praise until they have left the bathroom. When it comes to rewarding them consider using a token board, draw each step or use pictures. As your child completes each step praise them and reward them with a sticker to be placed on each step. Offer a prize at the end of completing the task. Eventually extend it to weekly rewards and then monthly until a reward is no longer needed. Use a reward jar filled with prizes and tokens to continue to encourage them.
3) Games. Play the “my turn your turn” game. Start by touching the toothbrush to your mouth, and then have your child copy the movement. Continue this same pattern with every step of brushing and flossing. If the games are fitting, distract them with their favorite book or song. Simply making the process more enjoyable will make the activity less of a challenge. With praise and rewards, high-fives and fist bumps, cheers, and turning the brushing and flossing into games and fun activities, your child will grow into practicing their oral hygiene habits. Like everything, it is important to remember patience in your endeavor.
Special Needs Dentistry
Additionally, allow your child to watch you brush and floss as well as let them come with you when you visit the dentist. If you are looking for a pediatric dentist to take care of the professional cleanings and procedures of your autistic child’s needs, consider Smile Reef. Our experts are formally trained and licensed to perform procedures on your special needs child and have the compassion and patience to make the process as comfortable as possible. Call Smile Reef today to schedule your child’s next appointment.