Dr. Josie (as most patients call her) spends her spare time delighting in her husband and 2 sons, one of which has Asperger’s Syndrome. Through various therapies, of which dietary changes have been the most effective, she has seen tremendous improvements of symptoms and behaviors commonly associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In an effort to help parents who have children on the Autism Spectrum, she shares her experiences and recommendations on her blog SharingMom.com.
In her first guest blog for AspergersAdvice.org, she provides tips to parents for maintaining dental health in children with Aspergers Syndrome.
Many things influence an Aspergers child’s progress and success in school and social circles – and one of the most important factors is their health. Children must be healthy in order to learn and feel comfortable in their surroundings and, despite progress made in dentistry during the past 30 years, dental decay remains a major health problem for children. This is especially the case for Aspergers children due to the propensity to eat foods high in carbohydrates and sweets. Cavities are preventable, but they continue to affect more children than any other chronic disease!
Baby teeth are very important – they are not just teeth that will fall out. Children need their teeth to eat properly, talk, smile and feel good about themselves. Tooth decay is a bacterial infection that does not heal and can become painful if left untreated. Asperger’s children with cavities may have difficulty eating their already limited diet and have problems paying attention at school due to the distracting sensory input of pain. This may hinder their learning as well as create potential behavioral problems in the classroom. Children can also become ill enough to require emergency room treatment and severe infections can permanently damage adult teeth.
Aside from dental pain, children may also stop smiling because they are embarrased by the condition of their mouth. This can create increased anxiety in social settings amplifying an already difficult situation.
Implementing the following tips will help to make caring for your child’s teeth easier. It may also save you from spending money on corrective dentistry for decay that could have easily been prevented.
Top 5 Tips for Parents for Dental Care at Home
- Talk about oral health as a routine part of taking care of oneself, just like taking vitamins or exercising. Do NOT, under any circumstances, threaten that if they don’t brush their teeth they will have to get a shot from the dentist or that their teeth will hurt. This will create unnecessary anxiety and backfire on you.
- Because children learn by example, be sure your child sees you brushing and flossing your own teeth each day. Also, praise their brushing efforts and the results they are producing. Try saying “Your teeth are so sparkly!” or “Your breath smells so good!” They’ll be delighted that you noticed and the positive effects of brushing will be reinforced.
- Due to sensory issues commonly associated with Asperger’s Syndrome let your child pick out their own toothbrush. Check the packaging to make sure that the brush has soft bristles and is designed for their age. Purchase small tubes of toothpastes in various flavors and see which one your child prefers. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the brush. If your child can not tolerate toothpaste, don’t worry! Don’t allow tooth brushing sessions to become stressful. The goal is to establish daily brushing and flossing habits. Brushing with just plain water is better than no brushing at all.
- Encourage your child to make healthy food choices. Instead of processed, sugary snacks, offer healthy, natural snacks like fruits and vegetables. Avoid soda pop, fruit juices and chocolate milk. They are loaded with sugar and speed up the decay process. Water and/or plain milk should be your child’s beverages of choice since they both contain properties which will strengthen their teeth.
- Utilize educational materials. There are many children’s books available to help you teach your child about the importance of brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist. Some good ones are Dragon Teeth and Parrot Beaks – Even Creatures Brush Their Teeth, by Almute Grohmann and Healthy Teeth are Happy Teeth by Jacqueline Centofanti-Diaz. Visit your local library or bookstore to find these helpful books.
Dr. Josie Dovidio graduated from Northwestern University Dental School, in 1997, with honors from the Academy of General Dentistry. Her family dental practice is in Southern California.
Dental image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net