A child on the autism spectrum may find it challenging to visit the dentist. Here, we discuss a few strategies to help parents prepare their child for the dental visits that can protect their oral health and wellness.
One of the most critical aspects of obtaining dental care for your child is finding a dentist who is well aware of what their challenges may be. The more you know about] the dental office and staff, the more comfortable you will feel. This translates into less stress for your child. Parents are invited to contact our NYC office to get to know us. Dr. Siegelman is an autism-friendly dentist who supports families in our area with knowledgeable, compassionate care. We understand that there is a lot about the dental environment that can be upsetting to patients with autism. This understanding guides our course of action with each patient.
Suggestions for Parents to Prepare Children for Dental Care
- Begin practicing at home. Purchase a plastic oral mirror at a local pharmacy and spend time with your child using the mirror to count their teeth. Let them get used to you putting the mirror or their toothbrush in their mouth.
- Tell a story about visiting the dentist that explains what happens in the office and how it is a good experience for the child. Some websites may have stories created that parents can use to then personalize with their child.
- No one knows better than you what your child’s sensory challenges may be and how they cope with them. Consider how the lights, sounds, smells, and tastes that are encountered during dental visits may affect your child and discuss this with your dentist before their visit.
- If lighting is a sensory challenge for your child, consider letting them wear sunglasses for their dental appointment. This can be a fun way to decrease the effect of a highly lit environment.
- Increase your child’s comfort in the dental chair by asking that it be reclined before they sit down. This prevents an unpleasant sensation of being leaned backward after sitting.
- If necessary, schedule short visits to the dental office that will expose your child to the environment in increments. One visit could focus on touring the office and maybe sitting in the dental chair. Another could allow your child to meet the hygienist or dentist for a quick count of their teeth. These shorter, happier visits can desensitize the child to the overall dental experience.
In addition to compassionate strategies, dentists experienced with special needs patients also often use sedation to support the best possible experience. Dr. Siegelman is a dental anesthesiologist with extensive training in the safe and conservative use of various types of sedation. To learn more, call our NYC office at (212) 974-8737.