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by Noelle Copeland March 05, 2022 4 min read

DISCLOSURE:Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral  Care and Baby Buddy.


Depending on where your child falls on the Spectrum, tooth brushing may be a beloved occurrence in your house or a dreaded challenge. Autism spectrum disorder can make oral care more challenging to start and maintain. My first recommendation would be to find a dentist as early as possible to establish that professional relationship with your child very early. My second recommendation would be to start oral care as soon as possible. This is why I advocate for early infant oral care.

Autism is typically not officially diagnosed until later in life, sometimes well after age 5. Suppose an oral care program has been started in infancy. In that case, it is much more likely that an autistic child will continue in the routine of a program that has already been established. However, challenges and circumstances that arrive unexpectedly can quickly alter established routines. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy is one of the most successful ways I've encountered program compliance with autistic children. Here are some of the highlights that have been shared with me and that I have used with my patients that came from ABA therapy.

  • According to ABA, when a "desired behavior" is performed and backed up by something the individual values, it is more likely to be repeated.

ABA therapy techniques for oral care

  • Discrete Trial Training:

Discrete trial training can help patients develop social and behavioral skills. The ABA Therapist will provide a cue, ask for the desired behavior, and reward the behavior with positive reinforcement. This is an excellent method for encouraging oral care acceptance at home. The cue can be music, sounds, or something sensory attentive for the individual.

  • Modeling:

This method involves demonstrating the desired behavior or providing a video/audio example of expectations. Modeling can be demonstrative by providing a way for the autistic individual to perform the intended task on someone or something else. Tooth brushing a favorite toy or teddy bear can be very helpful.

  • Reinforcement Systems:

Reinforcement systems teach individuals about the negative consequences of underperforming behaviors. For example; If the individual doesn't engage in the desired behavior, like tooth brushing, prompt them again, and if they continue to resist, withhold reinforcement until the behavior is performed.

Having an understanding of these quick snippets from ABA therapy techniques, you can implement them into a program where you work to accomplish the following. Remember to take it a step at a time and not look at a goal, just progress. Setting a goal can feel defeating when it doesn't happen as quickly as you’d like, so work on progress instead.

  • Oral care should start when your child is an infant. Preferably within the first month of life.
  • Parents should start a routine of wiping baby gums with a sterile mouth tissue or oral wipe, at least once a day.
  • This not only enforces the routine of oral care very early, but it cleans and removes bacteria from the mouth, keeping a healthy oral environment and limiting the build-up of milk residue.
  • Dental research shows that when oral care starts that early, kids are much less resistant to tooth brushing later on because the routine has been established.
  • Once teeth start to come in, they need to be brushed with a bristle toothbrush.
  • Adults should perform ALL the oral care for their children until the age of 5. After that, directly supervise children doing independent brushing and checking for effective results. More than likely, the parent will be solely responsible for an autistic child's oral care.
  • Children don't acquire the grip strength or dexterity to brush their teeth by themselves effectively until the age of at least five and sometimes much later than that and sometimes never, especially if there is a special need involved.
  • As a rule, to help gauge ability, if your child can tie their own shoes, they most likely have the skills necessary to explore more independence in brushing their own teeth. Just remember to check and monitor all attempts.
  • Implement some of the ABA techniques. Let your child brush your teeth. Offer non-food rewards for performing oral care.
  • Ask for help if all else fails. Seeing a dental professional that specializes in special needs oral care may be worth the investment.

Brilliant® has made oral care easy and fun with the best toothbrush for kids, designed specifically for babies and children. Look no further to find a toothbrush for autism. Brilliant has it all!. Our patented round brush head not only removes the plaque on teeth, it simultaneously cleans and removes the plaque and bacteria found on the cheeks, gums, teeth, and tongue. It’s the bristles that make all the difference when performing oral care, no matter if you're using our kid's vibrating toothbrush or a manual one. Brilliant brushes clean better—# BRUSHBRILLIANT.

© 2021 Compac Industries. All rights reserved. This article provides information about "oral health topics" as expressed through the perspective and experience of the author. The information provided does not substitute professional advice or counsel, including diagnosing or treating any condition. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, an oral condition, an illness, or treatment of any listed or unlisted situation above. Using this site signifies your consent to our Terms and Conditions. Do not use this site if you don’t agree to all Terms and Conditions.

Noelle Copeland
Noelle Copeland

Noelle Copeland is a licensed dental hygienist and Brilliant’s® first oral care specialist. She brings 25 years of clinical dental experience to the Brilliant® family and has become a regular contributor, creator and editor to the overall content and presentation of Brilliants® oral care line. She graduated with honors, Phi Theta Kappa, from Georgia State University Perimeter College in Dunwoody, Georgia, where she had been president of her dental class. Noelle has spent the majority of her career in the direct treatment of patients clinically and specializes in patient education and prevention strategies. She enjoys studying nutrition, oral care science and natural health.

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