There are a lot of sensory elements at the dentist’s office like loud noises, bright lights, as well as new tastes and smells. While this can be difficult for a child at first, they usually become more comfortable at each appointment. However, these sensory issues can be much harder for children with autism. Despite these difficulties, there are many ways to help your child with autism prepare for the dentist. I have been practicing family dentistry for 17 years and have worked with many families to help prepare their children for dental visits. I’ve compiled a list of the best tips that you can try with your child before their first dental appointment.
- Ask plenty of questions
One of the best ways to prepare for your child’s first dental appointment, is to ask your dentist a lot of questions. This is a great way for getting detailed information about what dental appointments are like and what you and your child can expect. Here are a few questions to guide your conversations with your child’s dentist:
- What kind of experience have you had working with children with autism?
- What can I expect at my child’s first dental visit?
- Can you make any special accommodations for my child’s dental appointment?
These are just a few questions to get you started as you and your child prepare for the dentist. Anything else that you are concerned with should be asked ahead of time so you can feel comfortable at your child’s visit. If your questions are answered, you and your child can have a pleasant experience.
- Familiarize your child
Another great way to prepare for your child’s first dental appointment is to schedule a familiarization appointment. These appointments involve you and your child visiting the dental office before any work is done on your child’s teeth. Since children with autism may struggle being in an unfamiliar place, this gives you both the opportunity to meet the staff members and get a sense of what the office is like.
You can also help prepare your child at home, too. Visual tools are a great way for your child to get a sense of what a dental visit will be like. You can read books or watch videos about dental checkups to put a picture in your child’s head of what their visit might be like. You also can turn a dental appointment into a game. You can play the dentist and your child will be the patient and you can have them practice laying with their feet out flat and their mouth opens wide. This will give them an idea of how they will be sitting during their actual checkup.
- Be supportive
Being supportive is the most effective, yet simple way to help your child prepare for their first visit. While the both of you may be nervous, as a parent, your child will look up to you for comfort. Be reassuring to them that their dental appointment will go well and take the time to teach them the importance of dental care. Listen to their concerns and fears and work through ways to make some of those overwhelming feelings less strong. With enough preparation, love, and support your child will be able to have a positive dental appointment.
While a child’s first dental appointment can be overwhelming, there are many ways to prepare them for a positive first visit. A child with autism may have difficulty processing sensory elements at the dentist, but by asking questions, familiarizing them, and being supportive they can work to be comfortable at future visits. Dentists are more than willing to work with your child and their unique needs. Dental care is extremely important to one’s overall health so never give up on helping your child to be confident and comfortable at the dentist.
By: Dr. Greg Grillo Dentably.com