Autistic Friendly Dentist

In our last article we discussed and offered suggestions on how to better the dental health of your autistic child, but instilling good dental habits is only half the battle. No matter how good you take care of your teeth at home, dental care by a professional is needed by everyone. However, for a child with autism taking him or her to the dentist can pose many challenges. Many autistic children are non-verbal, are highly sensitive to their environment, have a hard time sitting still, and many often run away from health care workers due to fear and anxiety. The lights, noises, and the unfamiliarity of the dentist office can easily overstimulate an autistic child and often causes them to panic.

If you have an autistic child and need some help on how to successfully introduce them to the dentist, read on to learn some useful ways on how to successfully prepare your autistic child for a trip to the dentist.

1. Before you bring your child to a dentist, call the dental office first so you can discuss your child’s needs. You don’t want to bring your child to a dentist without first discussing if they accept and have experience with children who are on the autism spectrum. If you have any problems, don’t become discouraged, you will find an autistic friendly dentist for your child.

2. Allow for consistency by asking if the same staff could be there for each visit, and by requesting that the appointments be kept to a time of the day that your child is at their best. In addition, ask to have a short wait time if you feel it’s necessary. Whatever your child’s particular needs and sensitivities are, be sure to voice this and any concerns you may have to the office staff and see if they can accommodate.

3. Try to get your child accustomed with daily tooth brushing, if they aren’t already before you bring them to the dentist. If you have not been successful with this, consider working with an autism professional first in order to teach your child good oral hygiene habits.

4. Before you take your child to the dentist, prepare them by telling them a story about the dentist. There are books available for this purpose or create one yourself so you can tailor it to your child’s concerns. By doing this you can help take out any uncertainty that your child may have about the dentist, and help relieve any anxiety.

5. Once you find a dentist, schedule a few short visits in the beginning that don’t include any dental work. You want these visits to be positive and short, this way your child can get used to the environment, meet the staff, and see, hear, and touch the equipment so that they can become comfortable before their first real dental appointment.

6. Bring along your child’s toothbrush and toothpaste with you to every dentist’s appointment. This will help eliminate any potential sensitivities or aversions they may have to the toothbrush and toothpaste that the dentist offers.

7. If your child is sensitive to light, bring along a pair of sunglasses to the dental appointment. You can also ask the staff to try to keep the light out of your child’s eyes as much as possible. For those moments when this is not possible, be sure that they have their sunglasses on in order to keep the light from out their eyes.

8. Bring along a pair of ear plugs if your child is extra sensitive to sound. Headphones that block out sound can also help your child cope and keep calm.

9. Ask the dentist to explain to your son or daughter what they plan on doing and have them show your child the tool that they are going to use. By giving a demonstration and by preparing them verbally before anything is done will help eliminate any surprises and uncertainty that your child may have.

10. If the dentist allows it, bring along a portable DVD player or some other electronic device that can play your child’s favorite videos. If they have a favorite stuffed animal or a toy, bring it along with you. Not only will this help distract them, but it will also help keep them comforted.

11. Have an incentive or a motivator for your child to enjoy for when the appointment is finished. Having that reward system in place can help your child remain calm during the duration of the appointment. This can be allowing them time on an electronic device, going to the park, or doing something else that they enjoy.