Children with developmental disabilities are at a high risk for enamel irregularities, gum infections, delays in tooth eruption,
moderate to severe misalignment between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed, resulting in a faulty bite poor bite,
and oral infection. To achieve and maintain good oral health, people with developmental disabilities often require a special
approach to dental care. Proper diagnosis and treatment of the dental patient presenting with autism may be challenging to the
knowledgeable dental practitioner. The initial examination may be very difficult to perform, and the medical history may
present a variety of issues that can impact on the materials that can be used. It is important to find a dentist who has
experience in treating children with special needs. With some adaptation of the skills dental professionals use every day, most
people with special needs can be treated successfully in the general practice setting.
Obsessive routines, repetitive behaviors, unpredictable body movements, and self-injurious behavior may all be symptoms that
complicate dental care. Communication and behavioral problems pose the most significant challenges in providing oral care.
The assessment of the patient’s diet may also present a complex resolution between adequate nutrition, medical complications,
and prevention of tooth decay. Above all people with autism experience few unusual oral health conditions.
The dental office probably is one of the main areas that may trigger a large amount of anxiety for a child with an autism
spectrum disorder. One of the areas being tactile (sensitivity to touch) and auditory (heighten sense to noise). Mouths are
extremely sensitive places and for a person with an ASD someone putting cold instruments into their mouth could be very
painful. In addition the noise of the drills and the cleaning of the instruments could also be a problem. Sometimes the taste of
the mouthwash or the paste used may be an
Dentists are one of the few professionals who invade everyone's personal space. Most people find this uncomfortable but are
aware of why the dentist has to be so close, to examine your teeth. For individuals with an ASD they may find this close
proximity extremely distressing. A common issue for many children with autism is oral sensitivity around the face and the
mouth. This sensitivity can affect eating, nutrition, speech, tooth brushing, dental check-ups and oral health. Some children
with special needs, especially those with autism, have an oral sensitivity that makes tooth brushing difficult. They may resist
having their teeth brushed by a parent or caregiver and refuse to brush their own teeth.
Children with autism have greater difficulty accessing dental care. Some of the risk factor for children with autism
• Sensitivity around the face and mouth which can make tooth brushing and dental check-ups more challenging.
• Use of candy as reinforces or feeding issues which may lead to more frequent consumption of sticky and sweet foods.
• Sensitivity to light and sound common in the dental office and sensitivity to touch that may make obtaining regular
dental care more difficult.
Autistic children requiring anesthesia for dental procedures
There is no evidence that anesthetic drugs have cause or worsen autism, nor is there any published data on preferred drugs
for anesthetizing autistic children. Dental anesthesia is usually performed in the dentist’s office. The mandatory requirement is
that an anesthesiologist experienced in dental and in pediatric anesthesia does the anesthesia care, and that standard hospital
operating room monitoring instruments (e.g., pulse ,ECG, and blood pressure), and resuscitation equipment (including a
defibrillator) are present in the dental suite.
If the child has serious medical problems (e.g., heart problems, breathing problems, seizures, or airway problems) it is
sometimes unsafe to give anesthesia care in the dental office, and the dentist will need to do the procedure in a hospital room
setting. This decision is made by the anesthesiologist. When the dental procedure is finished, the child stays at the facility until
safely aware. This usually requires a minimum of 30 minutes. Post-anesthesia side effects are sleepiness, sometimes nausea,
and in some children, aggressive behavior or agitation. When dental sedation is done by an experienced anesthesiologist with
modern monitoring equipment and medications, the rate of major complications should be low.
Mercury in Dental Fillings
Amalgam fillings, also called silver fillings, are made of mercury, silver, and other metals and have been used by dentists for
more than a century. But their use has dropped in recent years as more and more doctors switch to resin composite fillings,
which are considered more appealing because they are white. Some advocacy groups and dentists have long contended that
the mercury in fillings can leach into the body and cause harmful neurological effects, including autism.
American Dental Association (ADA) supports the use of such fillings and assures the American people that dental amalgam is
safe. The ADA claims that since mercury amalgam has been used for over 150 years, its safety should not be disputed. While
its position remains largely unsupported by scientific evidence, the ADA challenges those opposed to the use of amalgam
fillings to produce scientific evidence that its use is harmful to humans.
This challenge has been accepted. The anti-amalgam movement has been given new life by the widespread claims associating
mercury with autism. Those involved with anti-amalgam have countered by challenging the ADA to demonstrate that safe
levels of mercury in human tissues exist before endorsing its use. The ADA has yet to respond. Both sides do, however, agree
that mercury is one of the most poisonous elements known to man, and mercury amalgam may cause ill effects in those
people who are mercury sensitive.
Infants and young children that are not autistic, normally and commonly exhibit a degree of mercury contamination that is
directly related to the number of mercury amalgam fillings in their mother’s mouth. The more amalgams mom has, the higher
the mercury in the infant. Mom's blood and breast-milk carry mercury to the baby. The more she has, the more baby gets.
Whether this is viewed as good, bad, or insignificant, it's a fact to be kept in mind. Root canals, metal crowns, implants and
fluoride may be doing more harm than good. Another source of mercury for children is the mercurial preservatives that have
been used in vaccinations for many years; third major source of mercury is diet, especially fish.
Children with amalgam fillings were no more likely than other youngsters to suffer neurological problems, researchers said.
Autistic children somehow lack the normal mechanisms to rid the mercury of their bodies. That strongly suggests that autistic
children are unable to detoxify their mercury, build up higher body tissue levels of mercury than the non-autistic children
population. The higher tissue levels of mercury toxicity may then result in neurological changes seen as symptoms of autism.
Visiting the Dentist
Finding a dentist can be a challenge. It is often difficult to find one that has experience in treating children with special needs,
try to searching for a pediatric dentist. Many children with autism are resistant to visiting the dentist. Some amount of
preparation is recommended for your child to have a positive experience with the dentist. The amount of preparation depends
on your child's particular emotional and physical needs.
• When you call for a dental appointment, ask for an appointment time when the child is most rested.
• Go at a time when the office is least crowded.
• Inform the dental office of your child’s special needs.
• Describe any behavior problems.
• Develop a social story about visiting the dentist.
• Take favorite toys, music or books.
• Daily brushing helps prepare the child for the dental visit.
When making your dental visit try asking that the appointment is the first of the day. Ask if you could visit the office prior to
the appointment. This way your child can get meet the staff and get familiar with the equipment. For some the experience is
so distressing that sedation may need to be considered. If you feel this is the case you need to talk this through with your
dentist and a medical professional to discuss the options.Tell dentist about any problems with chewing or any pain observed in
the child. Talk to the dentist about any problems with oral hygiene.
|Exchange Links with Bright Tots. Bright Tots - Information on child development - Autism information. www.brighttots.com
|Bright Tots ~ Information on childhood developmental disorders, including autism, attention deficit disorder (ADHD),
behavior disorders, bipolar disorder, cerebral palsy, childhood disintegrative disorder, depression in children, diabetes in
children, down syndrome, emotional disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder , selective mutism, separation anxiety
disorder, speech and language disorders and spina bifida.
Resources, articles and information on autism including Asperger's syndrome, assessing autism, autism and tantrums,
autism in childhood, autism therapies, characteristics of autism, discipline strategies, early signs of autism, echolalia,
fragile x, hyperlexia / dyslexia, immunization worries, oral care and autism, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), Rett
syndrome, savant syndrome, and more...
Understanding developmental disorders - Find Early Intervention in your area.
Information and articles on autism therapy and autism treatment including: ABA therapy, autism diets, chelation therapy,
cognitive behavior therapy, key to learning, medications for treating autism, play therapy, occupational therapy, physical
therapy, sensory integration, signed speech, speech therapy, TEACCH Method and more...
What is a learning disability? What are developmental domains? Tips on teaching a child with autism, age appropriate
behavior (milestones), parenting rules, oral care and autism, baby tooth decay, is your child over weight? For those hard to
understand terms, visit our Glossary.
Bright Tots - Helpful information for picking the right toy for Babies, Toddlers and Preschool kids
What to look for in developmental baby, toddler and preschool toys. Read on the importance of choosing the right
educational baby toys, educational toddler toys, educational preschool toys that will
"Make Learning Fun"
Choosing the right Baby Toys | Toddler Toys | Preschool Toys | Special Needs