1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Your Advice Requested: How Do You Get an Autistic Child to Brush Their Teeth?

By July 26, 2006

An About.com reader asks: The question I have is how do you get your child to brush their teeth? My grandchild absolutely refuses to brush her teeth or to let anyone else do it for her. Help!

My advice includes behavioral techniques such as rewards for each step along the way to brushing (a token for opening wide; a token for each quadrant brushed; etc.); sensory work (allowing the child to chew the brush, gently brushing face and lips, trying an electric toothbrush); and offering the child a variety of toothpaste flavors (our son can't stand peppermint but loves strawberry). I'd also use social stories and visual cues with child who has mastered some language.

Are my ideas on the right track? What has worked for you?

Comments
July 26, 2006 at 8:41 pm
(1) Susan Carr says:

You are on the right track- I am a life skills teacher with many students with autism. We break toothbrushing up into an 18 step task analysis and reward the whole way through. We may teacher steps 1-5 until mastered and then move onto the next 5- it does take time and LOTS of enouragement and consistency… but the pay off int he end is worth it. Another thing to try are electric toothbrushes- some children with sensory issues love the feeling of it on the teeth and gums (others hate it) but try it!

Good luck

April 11, 2011 at 8:04 am
(2) Justine says:

My daughter is autistic and we are having a hard time brushing teeth. Can you tell me more about the way you do it?

July 27, 2006 at 7:02 am
(3) j neary says:

yes the right track
if they dont like the electric brush try small head brush and make sound of electric yourself as you encourage them to do back teeth then help with front teeth holding one of their hands gently sometimes helps lots of short goes until they are fedup with it or like the fresh taste whichever comes first timers have been suggested

July 27, 2006 at 9:21 am
(4) Rich Shull says:

From the Dark ages of Autism, when Autism was keen senses the preferance to be alone ,and odd strange mannor, a splinter skill, a pain tolerance and a time when good behavior was the only thing that was tolerated -it was not the autism it really was the child! Autism was NOT diagnosable in this era unless it was severe.

It was 1966 and my first visit to the denist office. Autistically I was terrified. The noise of the place the squeak of my body on the denists chair ,the nearness of the dentist ,a stranger and the nurse. That cold chain around my neck and that Loud Paper bib were all good for a few too many magic moments. By the time the polisher started I lost it ,between the denitist laying his arm on my head and the viberation and the noise and even the recptionist laughing on the phone with a high pitched squeal I lost it.

Dr Seeds, Pickerington Ohio, was never the same again, I was refered to Dr Alpers of Columbus a children’s denist, whom I visited for many years to follow. Keep in mind we never heard of the word Autism and in this era GOOD behavior was always demanded and expected, even my (our) autism behavior was accepctable if not very good. In fact I was punished a bit for acting up at the densits office. But , I think dad realized it was bit more than me causing trouble so I wasn’t grounded too badly. Dr Alpers ,going there was a ‘special effort’ and if he could not clam down the child enough he put the kid in twlight so he could work, that was VERY expensive and Mom always complained of the cost thus I learned to handle the noise the feelings of the stranger near me etc.

Interestingly , the autism Pain tolerance was visable to with a cavity,, He had the hook type tool in the tooth and it was literally hanging there and he said do you feel that? I never felt a thing! Dr Alpers called in his nurse and said look ‘Martha’ here is another one with no pain, as they discussed other patients that had the same trouble.

Many of us in our group have the first real dental pain in our 30′s with and abcess tooth. It never hurts until about 15 minutes before the tooth breaks and then we are on the way to the ER and for some of us this is the first real pain we felt in our lives. typically the car hits a bump and the tooth breaks and the pain INSTANTLY goes away! We are left with a broken tooth.

Our Autism group of Temple Grandin’s that figured out all of this stuff and even devised tests for the pain tolerance and ways to handle our active senses explain these pre rain man ideals in our books that Autism will not allow to be published.

Not only is or story odd ,our behavior was very good to perfect, our learning experience is one that absently everyone participiated in- and it absently worked and in effect our double blind autism experience is not favorable news or the results Modern Autism needs or wants to know about we are bad for the post Rain Man buzz word empire off today. We unintentionally shake up the status quoe of autism.

Rich Shull http://prerainmanautism.blogspot.com

August 6, 2006 at 1:30 am
(5) Nick says:

I have an autistic step son, and brushing his teeth is a daily habit for him now he takes great care and really looks at himself in the mirror, its getting him to go #2 on a regular basis that is the issue, whenever he gets stressed he stops going all together, I feel so bad for him, he gets so constipated that he’s “leaking” all over his bed sheets and tries to hide this, all though the smell he cannot hide, this boy can eat exlax for treats and does nothing for him, because he will smell everything before eating he will not eat anything containing bran,
I reward him with extra computer time or playstation time, for going everyday and he’s really happy to do that, he’ll come running up to me when I get home from work to tell me he’s gone that day and how many times etc, He’s 10 years old, Also, any tips on how to help him ride his bike without training wheels or to help with balance as he walks on his tippy toes and cannot even stand on one foot for any length of time?

May 18, 2009 at 4:14 pm
(6) JAIME says:

I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING TO BRUSH MY CHILDS TEETH HE WON’T LET ANYTHING IN HIS MOUTH HE IS THREE YRS OLD AND HAS NEVER LET ME BRUSH HIS TEETH HIS TWO FRONT TEETH ARE ROTTED AND IM HAVING A HARD TIME EVEN FINDING HIM A DENTIST THAT SPECIALIZES IN HIS CONDITION HE HAS SEVERE SEIZURES ALSO I FEEL BAD EVERTIME I MAKE HIM LAUGH I SEE HIS TEETH I CRY LIKE IAM FAILING MY BABY BOY WHAT CAN I DO????????

September 10, 2009 at 7:09 am
(7) priscilla says:

Try giving him a oral masage, with your finger.Start the masage over the lips and over the gums.You can also apply a little bit of honey on his gums while massaging.

June 19, 2010 at 11:21 am
(8) Mark says:

The reward system has worked perfectly, and my daughter brushes her teeth once a day.How can I get her to brush twice? I know that it’s a gradual process, but how soon should I try upping the ante?

June 6, 2011 at 11:35 am
(9) Madi says:

My daughter (8 years old) has PDD:NOS and ever since her front teeth became loose she is refusing to brush her teeth. She is scared it will get lost. Her teeth have so much plaque on them and her gums where her teeth should of fallen out are red. She even has one behind the one that should of fallen out. I’m at my wits end. Any advice would be appreciated

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.