A Guide to Common Dental Issues in Children with Autism

Oral health is essential for everyone, especially for children with autism, who often face unique challenges with dental care. This article aims to highlight common dental issues in children with autism and provide practical solutions to help parents ensure their child receives the best possible dental care. At Pure Dentistry, we are dedicated to creating a supportive and understanding environment that makes dental visits less stressful. By focusing on gentle, proactive treatments, we help maintain healthy, happy smiles for children with autism.

Dental Issues in Children with Autism

Dental Issues in Children with Autism

Children with autism often face several dental issues that can affect their comfort and health. It’s essential to be aware of these problems to better manage and prevent them.

Cavities and Tooth Decay

Children with autism might find brushing their teeth uncomfortable, which can lead to less frequent brushing and higher risks of cavities. Sweet foods and drinks are often preferred, increasing the chance of tooth decay if oral hygiene isn’t maintained. Regular dental check-ups and a consistent brushing routine are key to combating these issues.

Gum Disease

If brushing and flossing aren’t regular, plaque builds up and can lead to gum disease. This condition can be prevented with proper dental care, including professional cleanings and teaching children with autism how to brush effectively. Keeping an eye on their gum health is crucial for avoiding further complications.


Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is common in children with autism, often as a way to cope with stress or sensory overload. This can wear down teeth and cause pain or sensitivity, making regular dental visits important. Protective mouthguards at night can also help reduce damage from grinding.

Tooth Erosion

Acid reflux, which children with autism may experience more frequently, can lead to tooth erosion. This wears away the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay and sensitivity. Managing diet and possibly medical intervention for reflux can protect teeth from these effects.

Oral Trauma

Children with autism might engage in behaviours like head-banging or biting on objects, which can cause oral trauma. Protecting against these injuries involves creating safe environments and possibly using mouthguards. Immediate treatment for any injuries helps prevent long-term damage.

Dental Development Issues

Some children with autism experience delayed tooth eruption, which can complicate their dental care. These delays, along with other developmental dental issues, require careful monitoring by a dentist. Regular dental assessments help ensure that any developmental concerns are addressed early.

Dental Issues in Children with Autism

Signs of Dental Issues in Children with Autism

Recognising the signs of dental issues in children with autism early can make a big difference in their oral health. Here are key signs to look out for:

Resistance to Brushing or Flossing: If your child is consistently avoiding brushing or flossing, it might be due to discomfort or sensitivity in their mouth.

Bad Breath: Persistent bad breath can be a sign of gum disease or tooth decay.

Red or Swollen Gums: These are typical signs of gum disease. Gums might also bleed when brushing.

Visible Plaque or Tartar: Build-up on the teeth can lead to cavities and gum disease.

Chewing Difficulties: If your child is having trouble chewing, this might indicate dental problems.

Facial Pain or Swelling: Any noticeable pain, swelling, or discomfort in the face or gums should be checked by a Brisbane Paediatric Dentist.

Early detection and treatment of these signs can help maintain the dental health of a child with autism, ensuring their comfort and reducing the risk of more severe issues.

Reasons for Common Dental Problems in Children with Autism

Children with autism may face several dental issues due to unique behavioural and physiological traits. These challenges are often linked to sensory sensitivities, dietary habits, behavioural patterns, and communication difficulties.

Sensory Sensitivity

Many children with autism are highly sensitive to the sensations in their mouths, which can make routine brushing and flossing very uncomfortable. This discomfort can lead to inconsistent oral hygiene practices. Regular, gentle encouragement and using sensory-friendly dental products can help mitigate this issue.

Dietary Preferences

Children with autism often prefer certain textures or types of food, which may include soft and sugary snacks that can increase the risk of tooth decay. These dietary choices, coupled with possibly irregular eating habits, make consistent dental care even more critical. Encouraging a balanced diet and regular dental check-ups can help manage these risks.

Behavioural Challenges

Behavioural issues such as difficulty in following routines or resistance to new experiences can complicate regular dental care. These challenges make it hard for parents to maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine for their children. Creating a calm, familiar environment for dental care at home and choosing compassionate dental professionals can ease these difficulties.

Communication Barriers

Children with autism might struggle to express discomfort or pain related to dental issues, which can delay diagnosis and treatment. This lack of communication means parents and caregivers need to be particularly vigilant about signs of dental problems. Regular dental visits are essential for early detection and effective management of dental issues.

Dental Issues in Children with Autism

How to Choose the Right Dental Care Products for Autism

Choosing the right dental care products for children with autism can make a significant difference in their oral hygiene routine. Here are some tips to help you select the best options:

  • Look for Soft-Bristled Toothbrushes: Soft bristles are less irritating for sensitive gums and teeth, which is common in children with autism who may find brushing uncomfortable.
  • Choose Flavoured Toothpaste Carefully: Some children with autism may be particular about flavours. Experiment with different toothpaste flavours to find one that your child prefers, which can make brushing a more pleasant experience.
  • Consider Toothbrush Design: Toothbrushes with larger handles can be easier for children with coordination difficulties to hold. Some toothbrushes also light up or play music, which can make brushing more engaging for a child.
  • Select Floss that is Easy to Use: Flossers with handles can be easier to manipulate than traditional string floss. Look for floss that slides easily between teeth to reduce discomfort.
  • Use Mouthwash as an Additional Tool: Alcohol-free mouthwash can help reduce plaque and bacteria if brushing and flossing are particularly challenging. Choose a mild flavour to avoid sensory overload.

By carefully selecting dental care products that cater to the needs of children with autism, you can help make their oral hygiene routine more consistent and less stressful.

Preventing Dental Issues in Children with Autism

Preventing dental issues in children with autism involves establishing a routine that accommodates their needs. Here are some practical tips to help safeguard their oral health:

  • Establish a Routine: Consistency is key. Try to brush teeth at the same times each day so it becomes a predictable part of your child’s daily activities.
  • Use Visual Aids: A chart or pictures showing each step of the brushing process can help a child understand and become comfortable with the routine.
  • Gradual Introduction: If your child is sensitive to new sensations, introduce new dental care activities slowly. Start with brushing for short periods and gradually increase as your child becomes more comfortable.
  • Choose the Right Time: Pick times for dental care when your child is most relaxed. Avoiding times of day when they are typically more anxious can make a significant difference.
  • Professional Guidance: Regular dental check-ups are crucial. A dentist who has experience with children with autism can provide personalised advice and make adjustments to treatment plans as needed.

By taking these steps, you can help minimise dental problems and make dental care a more positive experience for your child with autism.

 Sedation Dentistry for Special Needs Children

At Pure Dentistry, our kids dentists understand that dental visits can be stressful for children with special needs. That’s why we offer sedation options to make these experiences as comfortable as possible. Our sedation dentistry options include sleep dentistry, where your child is under general anaesthesia and completely unconscious, ensuring they feel no discomfort during their treatment. We also provide laughing gas, a lighter form of sedation, to help relax children who may feel anxious about dental procedures.

According to Brisbane Dental Sleep Clinic, sedation dentistry can ensure a calm and positive dental visit for your child.

Empowering Smiles with Autism-Friendly Dental Care at Pure Dentistry

Our Brisbane dentists provide specialised dental care tailored to meet the needs of children with autism. Our team is committed to creating a supportive environment that fosters positive dental experiences. We offer flexible payment options through Humm and Supercare, ensuring that our services are accessible to all families. Additionally, our emergency dental care is available to address urgent needs promptly and efficiently. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can assist, please call us at 07 3343 4869.