How to Make Dental Visits Easier for Your Autistic Child
Dental visits can be stressful for any child, but for children on the autism spectrum, they can be especially challenging. Children with autism may have difficulty with sensory processing, and may feel overwhelmed by the many unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, and general sensations of a dental office.
Luckily, dental visits do not need to be a source of anxiety for your autistic child. In fact, there are several effective things that you, as a parent, can do to prepare your child for their upcoming dental appointment. This way, they can feel much more at ease and familiar with the process before taking a seat in the dentist’s chair.
This article will go over several helpful tips to make dental visits more comfortable for your autistic child.
Choose a Dentist Who is Familiar With Autism
First and foremost, it is important for parents of autistic children to choose a dentist who has experience treating children with autism, such as our SmileTown kids’ dentists. In fact, our kids-only dental clinic offers an autism program created specifically for children with autism spectrum disorders.
A kids dentist who is familiar with autism can anticipate and address common challenges that your child may experience. They will also have effective strategies or accommodations in place to make the dental visit more comfortable and less stressful for your child.
Additionally, children with autism may have difficulty communicating their needs or expressing discomfort. Thus, a dentist who has a thorough understanding of autism can better acknowledge and respond to the child’s behaviour.
Prepare Your Child for Their Dental Visit Ahead of Time
Every child deserves to know what to expect from their dental visit beforehand and should understand that the dentist is nothing to be afraid of. We recommend using a visual schedule or picture exchange system (PECS) to help your child better understand the steps that will take place while in the dentist’s chair. You can also find visual examples or videos online that represent a positive experience at the dental office.
Under our autism program, your child will be provided with a bag including items that we routinely use at SmileTown, such as a toothbrush, a plastic mouth mirror, floss picks, and a colour copy of our PECS board.
This will allow your child to become familiarized with this routine in the comfort of their own home, and will better help you to communicate with them about the steps of the appointment so that there are no surprises. With that said, be sure to use only positive language when describing anything related to their upcoming dental appointment.
Communicate With the Dentist Beforehand
Open communication with the dentist is crucial in ensuring your child’s dental treatment goes as smoothly and successfully as possible. Before the appointment, speak with the dentist about your child’s specific needs and challenges.
Communicating with the dentist beforehand will allow you to ask questions and express any concerns about your child’s treatment process. You can also share any helpful strategies that have worked in the past to help your child feel more comfortable.
Bring Sensory Items to the Appointment
If your child has sensory issues, we encourage you to bring items that can help them cope with the many unfamiliar sights, sounds, and sensations of the dental office. These sensory items might include sunglasses, earplugs, a cozy weighted blanket, a favourite stuffed toy, noise-cancelling headphones, or even a portable DVD player to distract them with their favourite movie.
You can also use rewards such as a small gift or treat, along with positive reinforcement, to help your child cooperate during the appointment.
Use a Calming Routine
Practicing a calming routine with your child can be quite successful in helping them to feel more at ease, and less stressed about their upcoming dental appointment, as it plays a role in regulating their nervous system.
Calming routines can take many forms, such as reading a favourite book, listening to soothing music, performing a mantra, or doing deep breathing exercises.
Sedation dentistry, particularly involving mild to moderate forms of anesthesia, can safely and effectively help children with autism to feel more relaxed during their dental appointment.
This, in turn, helps make the experience more comfortable for both the child and the dental professional performing treatment. Don’t hesitate to speak with our kids-only dentist about the sedation options available at SmileTown.
While it is true that children on the autism spectrum may have a more difficult time tolerating dental visits, with the right preparation, planning, and support, they can have much more positive and stress-free experiences in the dentist’s chair.
Contact Our Kids-Only, Autism-Friendly Dentist Today
Our team of kids-only dentists have tons of experience treating children with autism, and will happily work with you to provide the most comfortable and pleasant dental care experience for your child.