oral care for children with autism

It has been estimated that approximately half of all parents with children that have autism describe their child’s oral health as either “fair” or “poor”.

While this may seem surprising to most, visiting a pediatric dentist may be exceptionally challenging for a kid on the spectrum. Sensory overload in the dentist office is enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

The dentist office is full of unusual smells, weird noises, and scary tools. The unfamiliarity, unpredictability, and unusual nature of the work may be just a bit too much.

While it’s important for every child to visit pediatric dentist on a regular basis, we’d like to offer parents a few basic dental care tips that will aid in providing a boost to their oral health.

Teach The “Words”

The first step to ensuring optimal oral health in a child with autism is to teach them the “words”. Introducing new vocabulary may take time and repeated exposure, but, it is worth it. Kids with autism should be taught the following words:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Water
  • Floss
  • Rinse
  • Cup
  • Sink
  • Towel
  • Teeth
  • Tongue
  • Gums
  • Jaws

For older, higher functioning children, you might even study the anatomy of the teeth and mouth.

You may use flashcards, incorporate videos, read books, or even make a fun little song and dance out of teaching a child their “words”. The goal is to make this as fun and entertaining for the child as possible -ensuring that you do not stimulate them into overload. A child that knows, has the capability to grow. Even if you have to perform all of the tasks for them – in terms of their oral health – it is a positive experience for them to know the words and understand what is happening.

The Brushing Experience

Nine times out of ten, a breakdown in autism as a result of sensory overload stems from the unknown. That is, the child was not expecting what was coming and it came as a surprise. It overwhelmed them.

When initiating the brushing experience, you should always tell your child what is happening. Additionally, you should allow them to choose the toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and rinse that you utilize to clean their teeth and the components of their mouth.

Remember, not all kids will settle or accept your routine. Perhaps they want to rinse their mouth before brushing or they want to brush their tongue or they may even want to brush their teeth in the kitchen…. You must really tailor the brushing experience for the child. In doing so, they are likely to enjoy it more.


While teaching a child their oral health care “words” and personalizing the brushing experience may seem like simply ways to improve the health of the mouth, they are two very positive moves that all parents of autistic kids should focus on.

In addition to this, you should opt for a pediatric dentist that is considerate and empathetic to the plights of an autistic child.

If you are in the market for gentle dentistry or a pediatric dentist that will help your child experience optimal oral health, review our service page today for more information: https://richmondpediatricdentistry.com/dental-care/