Autism and Oral Hygiene – dentists & tooth brushing

Autism Dentist

Visiting the dentist can be scary and challenging for many reasons. This is particularly hard for autistic children especially those with sensory processing difficulties.  In this post I will look at some things to help with visiting the dentist and brushing teeth.

Brushing teeth

Visual aids can make a big difference for visual thinkers.  Having step by step instructions to support tooth brushing in the bathroom can really help.  This post from Healthline has some great visuals you can use.

Some children will really struggle with toothpaste, it can be very strong tasting which can be too overwhelming.  Recommendations to try are Sensodyne Pronamel gentle mint toothpaste, this one has a milder flavour and doesn’t have the foaming agent that most do.  Orannurse is another flavourless toothpaste that you can try. Our jaw is full of proprioceptors and some will be seeking more sensory input here (chewing / biting) whilst others will be avoiding it. For some an electric toothbrush can be great.  You can also get three way shaped toothbrushes which can be  helpful.

Visiting the dentist

Preparing for a trip to the dentist is really worthwhile, especially with younger kids who are less familiar with going. A great way to prepare for a trip to the dentist is with visual books.  A few of my favourites:

going to the dentist books
Books about dentist visits

You could also write your own social story.

I like to read our books about the dentist a few days before we go so the kids have time to process the information.

Role play is another great way to prepare, often dentists will give you a pair of the gloves they use and a disposable dental mirror if you ask.  This way you can practice at home, the feeling of a gloved hand in your mouth is very different to an ungloved hand.  I know my kids would naturally bite if someone put their finger in their mouth so it took a bit of practice letting me put the mirror, toothbrush in their mouth before working on fingers.

dentist tools
try out tools in advance

Playdoh do a lovely set for making teeth which can be another way to play and talk about teeth / dentists etc.

Don’t forget to use visuals to show your child they are going to the dentist, like the now and next board below. It can also help to have a reward planned for afterwards.

now and next
visual aids

Loosing a tooth

When our kids start to have wobbly teeth and lose them it can be really scary for some kids.  Others like my eldest may barely seem to notice.  There is a great episode of Peppa Pig about her tooth falling out called ‘Tooth Fairy’, there is also an episode of Ben and Holly about the tooth fairy. Watching these especially when our kids have a wobbly tooth or have lost a tooth can help them understand that it is ok.

Specialist dentists

Some dentists will be really accommodating of our kids needs but this is not always the case. If you feel your child would benefit from a dentist with a better understanding of autism then you can access the Community Dental Hospital Service.  The Community Dental Services will usually have staff with experience of additional needs and longer appointment times.  Your existing dentist can make a referral and or you can find out more information here or call NHS England on 03003112233.

man in white dress shirt wearing white framed eyeglasses
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Our first visit to the Community Dental Hospital Service was just to say hello, try out the chair and talk about brushing teeth.  The idea being that small steps would be taken so that my son was comfortable before they need to do any treatment.  I have found it a great service for my son.

Do you have any teeth tips? Share them in the comments below.

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10 Comments

  1. Malin SenLearningWithPenguin
    29th April 2021 / 3:47 am

    Important subject, and quite a tricky one for us. Our son had to go under to have some teeth fixed and some pulled out, when he was younger. He’s not happy for anyone to poke about in his mouth, but he likes taking a look in our mouths, lol. And he’s got that playdough set 🙂 xx

    • admin
      Author
      29th April 2021 / 6:41 am

      My eldest is just getting really interested in looking in our mouths too. Brushing teeth can be really challenging for many of our kids

  2. 29th April 2021 / 7:39 pm

    Another vital post – tooth cleaning at the dentist became so traumatic for my son it took everything I had to get him back. He won’t help along wobbly teeth either and we had one sticking out of the front of his mouth after the adult tooth had grown behind it, for over a year. Luckily a dentist that I know personally recommended a dentist about 40 miles away that absolutely gets it and it was a revelation. He sat with my son and really explained to him how to improve his oral hygiene. The effect has been dramatic – although still not perfect it is nothing like as scary a situation as it was. These tips are brilliant, Jade and I LOVE the play doh set!

    • admin
      Author
      29th April 2021 / 7:50 pm

      It makes so much difference when people just get it. A shame you have to travel for it but I know I would x

  3. thisiswhereitisat
    4th May 2021 / 2:18 pm

    I think preparing can be really useful to help calm anxiety x #kcacols

  4. Shelley Whittaker
    4th May 2021 / 3:42 pm

    This is really helpful! I love the play-doh kit. My daughter had an incident at nursery earlier in the year and we are now closely monitoring her tooth to ensure it doesn’t fall out too early (she isn’t quite 4 yet). And whilst it has all been a bit frightening, it has helped make her much more comfortable with brushing her teeth and attending the dentist. It helps that the dentist is a friend and is really kind and gentle with her. #KCACOLS

    • admin
      Author
      5th May 2021 / 7:54 pm

      It makes so much difference when a dentist is kind and friendly. We were lucky with our dentist who had kids a similar age to mine. Sorry your daughter had a scare but as you say good to get used to looking after teeth too.

  5. Malin SenLearningwPenguin
    6th May 2021 / 2:05 pm

    Brushing teeth is definitely a challenge! I’ve found that me singing while his teeth are being brushed helps somewhat, but it’s still not great. Popping back from #KCACOLS – Thanks so much for linking up! x

    • admin
      Author
      6th May 2021 / 2:17 pm

      I find myself singing too. More often the Peppa pig hand washing song but about teeth 🤣

  6. 6th May 2021 / 11:30 pm

    Brushing teeth can be such a challenge. We always used to sing when ours were smaller #KCACOLS

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