Helping your child with autism learn healthy personal hygiene habits can be a tricky process. Practicing oral hygiene can be especially difficult since there are adverse sensory issues associated with teeth brushing and flossing. Given the difficulty of keeping up with day to day oral health, it’s no wonder many parents of children on the autism spectrum are apprehensive about getting their child braces. However, the health benefits of an orthodontic treatment are often very noticeable in the long run and can prevent further oral health problems in the future. It’s worth taking your child to the orthodontist to see what options are available and to strategize for how you will prepare your child for braces and help her get through her treatment like pros.
Find the Right Fit
Ask around and take your time searching for an orthodontist that will be a good fit for your child. Ask if they have experience working with children on the autism spectrum and if their assistants have any special training. You should also ask if they can make accommodations for your child’s needs, such as making appointments during quiet hours, using visuals to help with the procedures, and breaking up appointments into shorter sessions.
When you find an orthodontist you trust, talk with them about the best options for your child. Traditional braces are a tried and true option, but there are numerous alternatives that may work for your child. There are smaller braces that feel less obtrusive that you can consider. Your child may also be a good fit for clear aligners that are removable. If you are able to afford these and if your child qualifies for them, clear removable aligners could be a good option since they are far less noticeable and cause significantly less discomfort during the straightening process. You will just need to make sure your child keeps up with keeping the aligners in her mouth for at least 22 hours per day.
Preparing Your Child for Braces
Start by going through social stories with your child, including visuals that depict dental procedures, thorough cleaning habits, and daily care for her braces. You should also start to focus on making sure your child is able to maintain routine dental hygiene habits since they will have to brush and floss extra during her time with braces. Introduce her early to items such as dental wax and lip balm that will help protect her mouth from irritation if they need traditional braces. If your child is used to eating hard foods, such as apples, jerky, or hard candy, you will need to start adjusting her diet to get her used to eating softer foods.
During Your Child’s Time with Braces
Your child will likely have a difficult time adjusting to the feeling of constantly having new objects in her mouth, so be prepared for more meltdowns than normal and be aware of what coping skills work best. Offer extra rewards to taking good care of her braces and practicing oral hygiene and be sure to give her lots of praise throughout the process. You’ll likely experience trial and error when your child has braces, so keep in close contact with your child’s orthodontist to discuss solutions for problems that arise. If you prepare your child well and keep in close communication with your orthodontist, your child should be able to adjust to her braces well and be on her way to a smile that will treat her well.
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