A Complete Overview of What to Expect When Taking Your Child with Autism to the Dentist
Dr. Greg Grillo (dentably.com)
Going to the dentist for the first time may be an overwhelming experience for any child. There are a lot of new sensory elements like bright lights, loud noises, and strange tastes and smells. However, children with autism may have more difficulty at the dentist because of sensory issues. I have been practicing family dentistry for 17 years and know how important it is for your child to have a positive experience at the dentist office. That’s why I have come up with a list of what you can expect when taking your child to the dentist, and how to prepare to make it a positive experience.
- New people
The first thing that will be inevitable when it comes to visiting the dentist is meeting new people. You and your child will quickly be getting to know the office and staff members at your dental clinic. Going to the dentist gives you and your child an amazing opportunity to establish a positive relationship between you and the staff at your dental office. They will be working closely with your child so having this relationship is important.
One thing that may help your child feel more comfortable around the dentist office and new people is choosing pediatric or special needs dentists. These dentists have 2-3 years of extra schooling that prepares them for accommodating for patients and their needs. These dental offices are often slower paced and are equipped to making patients as comfortable as possible.
Your child may be weary of meeting new people and uncomfortable in the new environment of the dentist office. If you feel like this may be an issue, ask your dentist to set up a familiarization appointment ahead of time for your child to visit the dental office. This will give them the chance to meet the office and staff before any work is done. They can also see what the office looks like in a more relaxed setting which will make it more familiar when your child comes back for their appointment.
The staff members at your dental office are going to work to make your child’s experience as comfortable as they can. Ask any questions you may have regarding your child’s appointment and let them know ahead of time any special accommodations you’d like to to be made. These can include things such as specific toothpaste flavors or reducing waiting room time. Think of you, your child, and your dentist as a team. Focus on teamwork as it is the best way for your child to have the most positive experience at the dentist.
- Experiencing nerves
Another common thing you can expect is nerves. Your child is likely to have some before their first dental visit. Thankfully there are many ways to work to overcome these nerves your child may be feeling and avoid other issues at the dentist.
Practicing at home is one great way to begin working through any nervous feelings they’re feeling. Try role-playing dental visits at home and using visuals such as telling stories or watching videos about dental checkups. There are many ways to work through your child’s possible fear of the dentist so find what works best. Do what you can to make going to the dentist a positive experience for your child. Your dentist will be right there beside you helping you along the way.
- Future dental visits
Regular dental visits are extremely important to your child’s overall health and well-being so it will be important to prepare for future visits. It’s recommended that your child visits a dentist once every six months. Note that your child’s first visit may be difficult, but you will begin to understand your child’s sensory difficulties as you visit the dentist more. Understanding what makes your child uncomfortable will help you figure out how to improve their dental experience. At first, it will be trial and error but enjoy the learning process.
One thing that many patients with special needs benefit from is working with the same staff each time. As mentioned before, establishing that relationship with office and staff members will be beneficial in the long run. Your child will be more willing to visit the dentist if they can be around people they are familiar with. It will help ease any anxieties your child may have previously had and make for a great and positive dental visit.
It’s very common for children to be scared for their first dental appointment. However, children with autism often have more difficulties when it comes to visiting the dentist as it may be difficult for them to process the sensory elements. Luckily, if you can know what to expect, you can work to prepare for your child’s appointment and face their fears. Be sure to keep conversations around the dentist positive and encouraging. There are many great family resources out there to help you and your child have the most positive experience.
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