Going to the dentist can be an overwhelming experience for almost anybody but especially for a child with autism. There are bright lights, loud noises, and strange tastes and smells that make going to the dentist rather difficult. Luckily, knowing what to expect at your child’s dental appointment can help you prepare for their appointment and help lessen some anxious feelings your child may have. I have been practicing family dentistry for 17 years and know how important it is for your child to have a positive experience at the dentist office. That’s why I have come up with a list of what you can expect when taking your child to the dentist, and how to prepare to make it a positive experience.
1. New people
It’s inevitable that you and your child will be meeting new people as you begin visiting the dentist regularly. You will quickly be getting to know the office and staff members at your dental clinic. Going to the dentist gives you and your child an amazing opportunity to establish a positive relationship between you guys and the staff at your dental office. They will be working closely with your child so having this relationship is important.
If your child is feeling especially nervous towards visiting the dentist, try setting up a familiarization appointment ahead of time for them to visit the dental office. This will give them the chance to meet the office and staff before any work is done. They can also see what the office looks like which will make it more familiar when your child comes back for their appointment.
The staff members at your dental office are going to work to make your child’s experience as comfortable as they can. Ask any questions you may have regarding your child’s appointment and let them know ahead of time any special accommodations you’d like to to be made. These can include things such as specific toothpaste flavors or reducing waiting room time. Think of you, your child, and your dentist as a team. Teamwork is the best way for your child to have the most positive experience at the dentist.
2. Experiencing nerves
Your child most likely will feel nervous about going to the dentist, especially if it’s their first visit. There are luckily many ways to work to overcome these nerves your child may be feeling and avoid other issues.
Practicing at home is one great way to work through any nerves. Role-playing dental visits at home and telling stories or watching videos about dental checkups have helped many patients I have had throughout the years. There are many ways to work through the nervousness surrounded with going to the dentist so find what works best for your child. Do what you can to make going to the dentist a positive experience for your child. Your dentist will be right there beside you helping you along the way.
3. Future dental visits
Regular dental visits are extremely important to your child’s overall health and well-being so it will be important to prepare for future visits. It’s recommended that your child visits a dentist once every six months. Note that your child’s first visit is going to be the most difficult, but as you start to visit the dentist more often and figure out what works for you and your child, the more comfortable they will become. What went well during your child’s first visit and what can be improved upon? Answering these questions will help your child’s visits run smoothly. At first, it will be trial and error but enjoy the learning process.
One thing that many patients with special needs benefit from is working with the same staff each time. As mentioned before, establishing that relationship with office and staff members will be beneficial in the long run. Your child will be more willing to visit the dentist if they can be around people they are familiar with. It will help ease any anxieties your child may have previously had and make for great and positive dental visits.
It’s very common that people experience nerves when they visit the dentist. There are a lot of sensory elements that make many uncomfortable. Children with autism often have more difficulties when it comes to visiting the dentist. However, if you know what to expect, you can work to prepare for your child’s appointment and face their fears. Be sure to keep conversations around the dentist positive and encouraging. Visiting the dentist is a great learning experience for you and your child. Remember that proper dental care is essential to your child’s health and well-being. Embrace the learning experience completely as you help your child become comfortable at the dentist.