Special Needs Dentist
in New York City
Autism Dentistry in New York, NY
Many people on the autistic spectrum have a difficult time dealing with the dental environment. This is partly due to differences in how people on the spectrum experience, understand, and interact with the world in general.
For most people, dental visits often require patience with a process that can be noisy, intrusive, or restrictive for anyone. New sights, smells, sounds, and emotions can add to the challenge. Dr. Siegelman is an autism dentist in New York City that can help.
The question is: what can be done to help patients and caregivers navigate this process with a minimum of angst?
How can Dr. Siegelman reduce the stimuli in the office for a patient on the spectrum?
As a dentist and dental anesthesiologist who has provided care to many patients on the autism spectrum, Dr. Siegelman has several strategies for making dental visits more pleasant and productive. In the office, some of the ways we can reduce stimulation include:
- Placing a heavy or warm blanket over the patient.
- Having the patient wear headphones with their favorite music.
- Having them wear darkened glasses like sunglasses during their treatment.
- Using voice control, in which the doctor and staff maintain a calm, soothing tone and volume when speaking to the patient and to one another.
- Using a quiet electric handpiece when conducting dental treatment.
- Positive verbal reinforcement reminds patients that they are doing well and are in a safe, friendly environment.
- Distraction. Some patients find dental visits more tolerable when they can watch their favorite show or hold an object in their hands. Fidget toys can be helpful as long as the patient can sit still while moving their hands.
- Sedation. Studies have found that oral conscious sedation, IV sedation, and general anesthesia can be very beneficial for patients on the autism spectrum. Nitrous oxide is available in our office, but patients on the spectrum tend to do better with alternative methods that do not require the constancy of a nosepiece delivery port.
Sometimes, patients need to work their way into a full dental exam and cleaning. Our staff understands that autistic patients may have a low threshold for the unknown, so are happy to work with families on desensitization. For example, sometimes, the first visit to the office may be limited to a tour and a friendly hello. The first time sitting in the dental chair may be limited to a few minutes with no examination. Our priority is providing every patient with the care they need in the way they can receive it comfortably.
What conditions does Dr. Siegelman typically see and treat in patients on the spectrum?
Patients on the autism spectrum have a surprisingly low rate of cavities compared to others. However, the risk for this condition is not lower, so good oral care and routine checkups and cleanings remains of vital importance to long-term oral health. Some of the conditions that dentists often see with patients on the spectrum include hyperactive gag reflex, dry mouth, tooth erosion, tongue-thrusting, and bruxism.
How can people on the autism spectrum prepare for a dental visit?
The most difficult part of seeing the dentist might be the unpredictability of the experience. Families of autistic patients can prepare for dental visits by reducing the mystery around what to expect. This can be achieved by showing pictures or videos to the patient beginning weeks before their visit. For some patients, it is helpful for them to see images or video of our very building and office, including the staff they will meet, the x-ray machine and how it works, and the dental chair they will sit in. Additionally, it may be helpful to brush the patient’s teeth at home to demonstrate to them what the dentist or hygienist will do in the office. A “trial run,” if you will. A parent or loved one can also prepare the patient regarding what they can do while the dentist works, such as listen to music or watch a show. It may also be helpful to give the patient a picture to hold onto that shows them the reward they will get for seeing the dentist, such as a new toy or favorite food.
Is sedation dentistry for patients on the spectrum safe?
Yes. Dental sedation can be as safe for the autistic patient as it is for anyone else. Our NYC practice was established with the safest protocols in mind. Dr. Siegelman is a dental anesthesiologist with years of experience as a clinician and educator. Dr. Currier is licensed in Dental Enteral Conscious Sedation and provides many oral sedation options to our patients.
The safety record of advanced anesthesia services provided by dentist anesthesiologists is unsurpassed in today’s healthcare industry. We provide the utmost care with a great deal of confidence and commitment to patient safety.
Can patients on the spectrum opt for sedation when getting an x-ray?
Certain types of dental sedation may be included in various aspects of care. For dental x-rays, a patient may receive oral conscious sedation to calm the nervous system without putting them “to sleep.” Every situation is unique and careful planning may be necessary to assist patients with dental x-rays. We are happy to discuss this over the phone prior to your appointment.
Our Autism Dentist Understands the patient
In our New York City office, we’ve found that gaining the best possible understanding of the patient is the most critical ingredient for success. People on the autistic spectrum are unique individuals, with specific likes, dislikes, and things they will tolerate.
It’s important to spend the time with the patient and caregivers, to determine their needs, and establish rapport. Preventive dental care and maintenance are emphasized so that patients need the least amount of invasive procedures possible.
Many patients simply require introducing new dental experiences at the patient’s own pace to allow for accommodation to changes in routine. Other patients may require some sedation to allow for better quality dental care. Sedation can be given by a pill or an elixir; or intravenously, depending on the extent of the dental care, the patient’s medical history, and the degree of cooperation the patient is able to provide.
Whichever technique is required, patients will be made comfortable and monitored for their safety. Treatment decisions are made in consultation with parents, physicians, and our team to ensure that all the patient’s needs are considered.
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