By Dr. Greg Grillo (dentably.com)
Going to the dentist can be an overwhelming experience for almost anybody, but especially for a child with autism. There are bright lights and loud noises that make going to the dentist difficult. Luckily, knowing what to expect at your child’s dental appointment can help you prepare for their appointment and work through 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’s office. That’s why I have come up with a list of what you can expect when taking your child to the dentist.
It’s inevitable that you and your child will be meeting new people as you begin visiting the dentist regularly. You 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 guys and the staff at your dental office. They will be working closely with your child so having this relationship is important.
The staff members at your dental office are going to strive 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 about any special accommodations you would like to be made. Think of you, your child, and your dentist as a team working together to help your child have the most positive experience.
It’s recommended that your child visits a dentist once every six months. Note that your child’s first visit is going to be the most difficult. Your child will feel more relaxed during future appointments as you start to visit the dentist more often and figure out what works for him or her.
One thing that many patients with special needs benefit from is working with the same staff each time. 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 great dental visits.
Your child may have some sensory issues associated with going to the dentist, especially if it’s their first visit. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome challenges.
Practicing at home is one good way to work through any sensory issues or nerves. Role-playing dental visits at home, telling stories or watching videos about dental checkups have helped many patients I have had throughout the years. 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.
It’s very common that people with autism experience nerves when they visit the dentist, and there are sensory elements that can make patients feel uncomfortable. However, when you know what to expect, you can work to prepare for your child’s appointment and help them face their fears. Visiting the dentist is a great learning experience for you and your child as well as an important piece to his or her overall health.
July 2, 2019, Dr. Greg Grillo