Preparing Your Autistic Child For Orthodontics

As children age, it isn't uncommon for a dentist or orthodontist to recommend braces or other corrective orthodontics. For parents of autistic children, however, the prospect of braces can be a stressful one. Autism spectrum disorder can cause sensory perception issues and a dislike for changing routines, both of which can be triggered by orthodontics and potentially even lead to upsetting meltdowns. Thankfully, many autistic children adjust to their braces quickly and easily, but you can help improve the process by following these four steps along the way. 

Answering Questions and Preparing Ahead of Time

When your dentist first brings up orthodontics as a possibility for your child, it may be best to wait a few weeks or months before progressing further. During this time, start getting your child used to the idea by discussing why braces are important, how they work and how they will improve your child's smile. Be open and honest about the fact that they may be uncomfortable for a while, but emphasize that they will get better. Once your child is familiar and comfortable with the idea, it will be much easier to move forward. 

Communicating With Your Orthodontist

Many orthodontists have some experience working with autistic patients, and your orthodontist should be willing to make a few accommodations to help your child through the procedure. First, it may be helpful to discuss using the lightest and most unobtrusive orthodontics possible, particularly if your child has oral sensory sensitivity. Allowing your child to get up and move occasionally during the actual installation can also help relieve anxiety and nervous energy. 

Listening to Your Child's Concerns and Complaints

No matter what, remember that your child is the one who will need to live with braces, and living with autism is difficult enough already. Always listen when your child asks questions or consistently complains about discomfort after the braces are installed. Persistent aches and pains may simply be a sign that the braces need to be adjusted, and even minor irritations can be highly distressing for autistic individuals. 

Settling into a New Routine

Wearing orthodontics also means a few minor tweaks to brushing and eating habits, but changing up long-standing routines can be nerve-wracking for autistic children. Try following the new rules a few days prior to installation to help your child grow used to them, and then make gentle reminders if you notice your child eating a food he or she shouldn't or following old hygiene practices. By making the process as clear and unremarkable as possible, you can give your child the best chance of transitioning to braces without any undue stress or meltdowns. 

If you have more questions or would like more information about orthodontics, contact Waterford Dental.