After all, children go through the remarkable process of having not one but two sets of teeth.

While we commonly think of a child’s baby teeth as only serving a temporary purpose, they actually play a big role in the development of their permanent teeth.

Baby teeth act like space holders that help to guide permanent teeth into the correct position. When baby teeth fall out at too young an age, permanent teeth can form crooked, crowded, or misaligned as neighboring teeth shift to fill the vacancy made by the premature loss of a temporary tooth.

That’s why promoting quality oral health and hygiene in kids plays such an important role when it comes to enabling the healthy development of their teeth and gums. Of course, tooth decay and tooth loss aren’t they only problems a child can face with their oral health.  And this fact becomes especially relevant for kids who have special needs.

Kids with autism experience fewer cases of cavities, tooth decay, and missing teeth when compared to other kids of their age, according to the results of a new study. However, these kids are more prone to developing other types of oral health issue, including dental anxiety, teeth grinding, and soft-tissue trauma.

In the study, researchers surveyed hundreds of kids and their parents to identify how autism might impact oral health. The results of their findings were recently published in the European Journal of Pediatric Dentistry.

Oral Health and Autism

Autism spectrum disorder affects one out of every 59 kids in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While autism is linked to a variety of medical issues, research into the disorder’s effect on a child’s oral health has been somewhat limited and inconclusive.

To delve deeper in the subject, researchers enrolled 407 kids, 285 of which were diagnosed with autism, while the other 122 were categorized as neurotypical, into their study. Parents and kids answered survey questions related to their oral hygiene. A dentist then conducted a comprehensive oral examination, including counting the number of cavities, taking a plaque index, and assessing the current and future state of each child’s oral health.

Researchers discovered that the kids with autism had significantly fewer cavities and signs of dental decay when compared to the kids without the disorder.

The results of the study occurred despite the fact that the kids with autism practiced worse oral hygiene routines when compared to their peers.

Only 38 percent of the kids with autism brushed their teeth daily, compared to 85 percent of kids without the disorder. Parents were also far more likely to help kids with autism brush than were the parents of neurotypical children.

Kids with autism were also far more likely to develop teeth grinding habits, dental anxiety when visiting the dentist, tongue thrusting, and drooling when compared to neurotypical children. They were also more likely to experience dental trauma, especially to the soft-tissue areas of the mouth.

Protecting Your Child’s Oral Health by Seeing a Kids’ Dentist in Castle Rock

Due to the precarious state of kids’ oral health, children need to receive regular dental care from a young age.

We recommend that parents first schedule an appointment for this child to see a kids’ dentist in Castle Rock by the age of one.

While this may seem like a young age for a kids to see a dentist, early treatment offers several benefits.

First, it helps kids become better acquainted with the idea of visiting the dentist. A child that visits the dentist from the age of one will have a much easier time adjusting than one who’s first visit doesn’t occur to the age of 3 or 4.

Second, regular exams give our team at Glow the chance to monitor a child’s oral health development from an early age.

Whether a child has autism or is neurotypical, monitoring their oral health from a young age will give Drs. Ryan and Skinner the chance to spot any signs of decay or delayed dental development early on while still easily treatable.

Early care can also help to inform our dentist as to whether a child might need braces or oral therapy so their development can continue normally.

The results of this study also highlight an important difference between these two groups of kids.

Despite practicing worse oral hygiene habits overall, the autism group still enjoyed better oral health overall. Why? Because their parents helped them brush.

Most kids don’t possess the attention to detail or manual dexterity needed to properly brush and floss. Parents who leave these important habits to their kids at too young an age run the risk of instilling poor brushing habits that can last for a lifetime.

As a general rule, parents should help their kids brush and floss until they can tie their own shoes- usually around the age of 7 or 8.

Until then, parents must continue to help their kids maintain the health of their smiles.