Relation between Class I malocclusion and bad oral habits in children with autism in Makassar



Maintaining good oral health is crucial for everyone, and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are no exception. However, due to various factors, they may face unique challenges in achieving and maintaining proper dental hygiene. A recent study published in April 2024 in the Makassar Dental Journal shed light on this very topic. The research investigated the connection between Class I malocclusion, a type of misaligned teeth, and bad oral habits in children with autism residing in Makassar, Indonesia. This blog post delves deeper into the details of this study and its significance for promoting oral health in children with ASD.


Understanding Class I Malocclusion and Oral Habits in Children with Autism


Class I malocclusion, also known as neutrocclusion, is a dental condition where the teeth bite together properly despite some minor crowding or spacing issues. While this type of malocclusion is relatively common, children with ASD may be more prone to it for several reasons. Sensory processing difficulties, common in ASD, can lead to bad oral habits like teeth grinding or mouthing objects, which can contribute to misaligned teeth. Additionally, challenges with communication and expressing needs can make it difficult for children with ASD to effectively communicate any discomfort or dental problems they may be experiencing.


The Makassar study aimed to explore these connections further. Researchers examined the prevalence of Class I malocclusion among children with autism in the city and investigated the presence of bad oral habits that could potentially contribute to misaligned teeth or other dental issues.


Key Findings of the Makassar Study on Oral Health in Children with Autism


The research revealed a significant association between Class I malocclusion and bad oral habits in children with autism in Makassar. Let’s explore the key takeaways from the study:

  • High Prevalence of Class I Malocclusion: The study found a surprisingly high percentage (around 68.6%) of the participating children with autism exhibited Class I malocclusion. This highlights the potential vulnerability of this population to developing misaligned teeth.
  • Prevalence of Bad Oral Habits: The research indicated that roughly 60% of the children with autism engaged in bad oral habits. These habits likely play a significant role in the development or worsening of malocclusion and other dental problems.
  • Common Bad Oral Habits: The study identified some concerning oral habits prevalent among the children with autism. Bruxism (teeth grinding), mouth breathing, and finger sucking were identified as common habits that could negatively impact their dental health.


These findings suggest that children with autism in Makassar are more likely to have Class I malocclusion and engage in habits that could negatively impact their oral health. Early detection and intervention are crucial for addressing both Class I malocclusion and bad oral habits to prevent future dental problems and promote good oral hygiene in these children.


Beyond the Study: Importance of Oral Health Care for Children with Autism


The Makassar study underscores the critical importance of prioritizing oral health care for children with autism. Here’s why:

  • Potential for Dental Problems: If left unaddressed, Class I malocclusion and bad oral habits can lead to various dental problems in children with autism, including difficulty chewing, increased risk of cavities and gum disease, and even speech impediments.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Dental procedures can be overwhelming for children with autism due to sensory sensitivities associated with bright lights, unfamiliar sounds, and certain instruments used during examinations or treatments. Early and regular dental visits can help children become accustomed to the dental environment, reducing anxiety and ensuring a more positive experience when dental procedures become necessary.
  • Importance of Communication: Effective communication is essential for good oral health care. Regular dental visits allow dentists to discuss oral hygiene practices with both the child and their caregivers, ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to maintaining good dental health.


Moving Forward: Creating a Supportive Dental Care Routine


While the Makassar study focused on a specific population, its findings highlight the general need for increased awareness and attention to oral health care in children with autism. Here are some tips for creating a supportive dental care routine for these children:

  • Start Early: Schedule regular dental visits from a young age to familiarize the child with the dentist and dental environment.
  • Find an Autism-Friendly Dentist: Look for a dentist with experience working with children with autism who can create a calming and comfortable environment for the child.
  • Focus on Positive Reinforcement: Praise and reward the child for good oral hygiene practices to encourage continued cooperation.
  • Visual Aids and Communication Strategies: Utilize visual aids and simple communication strategies to explain dental procedures and expectations to the child beforehand.


By working together, parents, caregivers, dentists, and other healthcare professionals can create a positive dental care experience for children with autism, promoting good oral health and overall well-being.



What are some of the long-term consequences of neglecting oral health in children with autism?


Neglecting oral health in children with autism can lead to various long-term consequences, including:

  • Pain and discomfort from dental problems.
  • Difficulty eating due to problems with chewing.
  • Speech impediments caused by misaligned teeth.
  • Increased risk of systemic health problems due to oral infections.


Early intervention and proper dental care can help prevent these complications and ensure good overall health for children with autism.


Should I be worried if my child with autism grinds their teeth?

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is a common habit that can occur in children with and without autism. While occasional teeth grinding may not be a cause for concern, chronic bruxism can lead to wear and tear on teeth, jaw pain, and headaches. If you notice your child grinding their teeth frequently, consult with a dentist to discuss treatment options such as a mouthguard to protect the teeth.


Are there any alternative treatments available for Class I malocclusion besides braces?


While traditional braces are a common treatment for Class I malocclusion, there may be other options depending on the severity of the case and your child’s individual needs. Some possibilities include:

  • Clear aligners: These removable aligners gradually adjust teeth positioning and can be a more cosmetically appealing option for some children.
  • Headgear: In some cases, headgear may be used in conjunction with braces to address specific alignment issues.
  • Palatal expanders: These appliances can help widen the upper jaw to create space for proper tooth alignment.


Consulting with an orthodontist can help determine the most suitable treatment plan for your child’s specific case.


The Makassar study focused on Class I malocclusion. Are there other types of misalignment I should be aware of in children with autism?


Class I malocclusion is just one type of misalignment that can occur in children with autism. Here are some other potential concerns:

  • Crowding:Teeth can become crowded when there’s not enough space in the jaw for all the teeth to erupt properly.
  • Spacing:Gaps can develop between teeth due to missing teeth or inadequate jaw development.
  • Open bite:An open bite occurs when the front teeth don’t touch when the mouth is closed.
  • Crossbite:A crossbite happens when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth.


Early detection and treatment of any type of misalignment is crucial to prevent future complications. Regular dental checkups are essential for identifying any potential issues and ensuring proper oral health for your child with autism.



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