As the parent of a special needs child, you know that your little one deserves to have the same high level of care as any other. For example, your child may be autistic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require quality dental care. How can you make sure their dental visits are successful and not stressful? With special needs dentistry, it’s possible, but here are four tips you can do to ensure a positive experience at the dentist’s office.
Find a Pediatric Dentist with Experience with Special Needs Patients
Unlike most general dentists, pediatric dentists usually undergo at least some coursework for special needs patients. However, you may want to search for someone who has more than just the standard amount of experience and training.
As you interview pediatric dentists, ask about their policies for special needs kids. Do they allow the parent to stay with their child throughout the appointment? Do they offer sedation options? How do they deal with anxious children? Their responses to these questions can help you feel confident in your choice of a provider for your autistic child.
Keep Surprises to a Minimum
Sometimes, a child with autism is nervous simply because they don’t know what to expect. Especially if the dental visit is at a new office, take time before the appointment to prepare them for what’s coming. You can do this by asking for or taking pictures of the practice and showing your child. You can even make a special book for them! As they look, describe what the pediatric dentist will do.
If possible, it may be helpful to actually have dental tools (you may be able to borrow or buy them) so that your child can interact with these instruments prior to the visit. Any amount of familiarity your child can gain before the appointment is beneficial!
Understand and Prepare for Your Child’s Triggers
Many children with autism do not like the bright light shining on them or the unfamiliar sounds of the dentist’s office. However, you can reduce the effect these common triggers have by bringing a pair of sunglasses and headphones for your child to wear. You can play soothing or fun music so they feel more relaxed and happy throughout the appointment. Or they could even watch a favorite show!
Come with Comforting Objects
Perhaps your child loves a particular blanket or stuffed animal. Taking an item that they find comforting to the office can help them feel more at home and at ease. Keep in mind that a favorite hard, plastic toy may not be appropriate just in case they throw it.
When you work with a pediatric dentist who has your child’s needs and comfort in mind, visiting their office doesn’t have to be a challenge. Together, you can make the appointment more pleasant for everyone, especially for your favorite, special smile!
About the Author
Dr. Lily has always loved working with children, especially those with special needs. While earning her undergraduate degree, she worked in a special needs classroom, where she learned how to help these kinds of patients. She also is a member of several organizations and professional associations for pediatric dentistry, including the Southwestern Society of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, as well as the Texas Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. You can contact Dr. Lily at her practice, Shiny Smiles Pediatric Dentistry in Garland, TX, by calling the office at 469-925-0861 or visiting the Contact Us page here.