I am proud to say that I have all my own teeth at the age of 65. While that may not sound unusual to some people, everyone in my family who is my age or older wears dentures. I always tell people that that flossing is the key to good dental health. I have arthritis in my hands, but I don't let it keep me from flossing every day. My trick is to use those little "flossers" you can buy at the drug store. They have plastic handles floss stretched out on top of the handle. These make flossing easier on days when my arthritis is acting up. I started this blog to let other people know that they can keep their teeth healthy into old age when they take care of them. If you have hand pain, find ways to make flossing easier, like I did.
If getting regular dental checkups for your autistic child has always been a struggle due to his or her heightened sensory perceptions, you may greet the news that your child needs orthodontic treatment with dread. While purely cosmetic orthodontia may not be worth the cost and struggle until your child is older and more mature, corrective orthodontia may sometimes be necessary to preserve your child's dental health. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take that will help stave off any meltdowns or refusals to enter the orthodontist's office and allow your child to accept his or her treatment plan with grace. Read on for some techniques you -- and your child's dentist -- can use to help this treatment process go as smoothly and successfully as possible.
What should you do to prepare your child for orthodontic treatment?
Your child will feel calmer and more at ease if he or she is fully prepared for each step of the process. This can mean making a visual schedule (by listing out the steps and attaching photos or drawings to depict each one) and actually physically going through the steps in a reclining chair. You'll want to have your child practice placing his hands in his lap, opening his mouth, allowing you to gently tap a pair of tweezers or other small metal object against his teeth, and rinsing out his mouth with water and spitting into a sink. By knowing (and practicing) each step of the process before it happens, your child can feel secure when going through a new experience. Older children and teens may also enjoy doing some internet research on the procedure before they visit the orthodontist's office.
In other cases, you may even be able to find an orthodontist who can allow an especially fidgety or nervous child to stand for much of the procedure, or schedule frequent breaks that will allow your child to relax and calm his or her nerves. Whatever the plan, letting your child know beforehand what he or she can expect will go a long way toward making the process smoother for everyone involved.
As a last resort for children who aren't likely to handle the visit well, you may be able to give your child a mild prescription sedative or anti-anxiety medication shortly before the appointment. This can prevent your child from working him- or herself up into a panic before even getting into the dentist's chair and should allow him or her to be more compliant with the dentist's instructions.
What factors should you consider when selecting an orthodontist for your autistic child?
With the autism diagnosis rate continuing to rise nearly exponentially, a number of dentists and orthodontists have designed their practices to meet the needs of families with autistic children. If your dentist has recommended your child seek orthodontic treatment, you may be able to find an orthodontist in your area who specializes in this area and has empathetic and caring staff who are especially experienced in providing orthodontic care to autistic children and teens.
However, this doesn't mean you should be dismayed if you don't have an autism specialist in your area -- or that you should automatically discount orthodontists who aren't marketing themselves as autism-friendly. If your friends or fellow parents all have great reviews for one specific orthodontist or family dentist, it can be worth giving him or her a brief interview and observing the interaction with your child to see if treatment is likely to be successful. You may also want to contact a local autism support or outreach group to see if this organization has any specific orthodontist recommendations.