Around 4 million children in the United States and Canada wear dental braces. Dentists and orthodontists prescribe these braces to correct problems with a child's teeth, but it's important that kids learn how to comfortably wear and care for the equipment. For autistic children, dental braces can present unique challenges, so parents may need to take extra steps to help them deal with the experience. Learn how dental braces can make life difficult for autistic children, and find out why some autistic children just cannot cope with these devices.
Why children need braces
If your child's teeth are misaligned in some way, the problem can seriously effect on your son or daughter's life. Crooked, overlapping or overcrowded teeth will change the shape of your child's face, and these problems will often make it harder to eat. As the child develops, these problems often grow worse.
Dentists commonly suggest braces for children with a bad bite. A bad bite (also called malocclusion) occurs when the top and bottom jaws are different sizes. If the upper jaw is bigger, your child will have a condition called overbite. If the lower jaw is bigger, dentists refer to the symptoms as underbite.
Children normally have to wear dental braces for up to two years. An orthodontist will normally not consider these appliances in children under the age of 6 because the adult teeth will not normally appear until this time. Some kids don't get dental braces until they are in their teens, and you can even have braces when you are an adult.
Types of dental braces
Dental braces correct problems with misalignment by putting the teeth under constant, steady pressure. Orthodontists recommend different types of dental braces. Some products have wires and rubber bands. Some children have metal braces, while others have clear or white ceramic braces that you can't really see.
Orthodontists will recommend different dental braces according to the misalignment problem your child has. Once the child has braces, he or she will normally visit the orthodontist every few weeks. Dental braces are not normally painful, but children often feel some discomfort. You may also need to change your child's diet, as some foods (like popcorn and candy) can damage dental braces.
The challenges autistic children face
Autism is a developmental disorder. Children with the condition often struggle to interact normally with the world in the same way as other kids. Many autistic children are hypersensitive and will overreact in normal situations. Other autistic kids are hyposensitive. These kids may never really seem to react in any situation.
Both types of behavior can cause problems if you want your child to wear dental braces. For example, a hypersensitive child may struggle to cope with all the different feelings that he or she experiences when an orthodontist wants to fit the appliance. Conversely, a hyposensitive child may not really feel pain. As such, he or she can dislodge or damage the dental appliance without realizing. This behavior may mean the appliance is ultimately useless.
Deciding if your autistic child should have dental braces
To decide if your child should have dental braces, you should talk to your son or daughter's doctor and orthodontist. The symptoms of autism vary considerably from one child to another. In milder cases, children can often cope with the appliance without any problems. In severe cases, it's less likely that an autistic child will cope with dental braces.
Even if your child has mild autism, it's a good idea to talk to an orthodontist with experience of working with autistic children. Experienced orthodontists often customize their facilities to accommodate children with sensory perception issues. These experts also often know various tips and tricks to help autistic kids cope. For example, autistic children sometimes respond well if the orthodontist vividly describes and discusses each stage of the process and why it's necessary in friendly, imaginative terms.
Parents will also need to help autistic children look after their dental braces. For example, you may need to 'gamify' the process of cleaning and sterilizing these appliances, so your child finds the experience entertaining. Routines are also crucial. For example, if your child starts to understand that he or she must clean his or her braces before a favorite TV show, you're more likely to get better results.
Nonetheless, autistic children often cannot cope with dental braces. In these instances, your orthodontist may need to consider other solutions. For example, surgery is often a better way to fix misalignment issues, as the child undergoes anesthesia, and the orthodontist can do everything in one session.
Dental braces can help cure a child's bad bite, but if your son or daughter is autistic, he or she may not cope with all the necessary steps. In serious cases of misalignment, you may need to talk to your dentist about other potential solutions. You can learn more information about braces options by clicking here.