Autism and the Dentist Can be a Terrifying Experience for Children
Autism and the dentist finds that a parent of an autistic child might continually “put off” a visit to the dentist. Then, once you arrive at his/her office you still may not be able to proceed with the appointment. Following are some ideas to help make your appointment a little more gentle.
- If your child has verbal skills he/she will have questions to ask and they need to be answered. Your dentist needs to understand that you have an inquisitive child and his/her questions are as important as are any other patients’ questions.
- Initially the dentist should try using just her/his fingers while completing an examination. Next, the dentist should try to use the mirror to put inside the mouth. All of this time the overhead light should be off (or at a very low intensity) so it does not disturb the child.
- The parents, or guardian, should be allowed to sit or stand near the child. If the child wants to hold your hand, or, if you want to offer words of comfort then the dentist should be open to this. During any dental procedure the child may enjoy some type of pressure applied to the body.
- The dentist should speak using simple words the child can understand and continually praise the child.
- If your child has a favorite toy be sure to take this with you to the appointment. Once you go home you should have at least one prepared ‘story book’ to read with your child. This might include such details as a step by step summary of what will happen as well as an introduction to the tools the dentist might use during the next visit. The ‘story book’ should not only expose the different ‘tools’ that might be used but also to emphasis that everything will be done inside the mouth – no place else.
- In a number of situations it might be necessary for your child to be sedated or to receive general anesthesia. This is not uncommon for young children (even adults) as some of them cannot understand or tolerate the situation.
Like with other experiences – your first few trips to the dentist, with your autistic child, might prove to be very difficult. The only way you can make the situation easier is to do your homework and choose the dentist you believe will provide your child the best services. Also, you need to be prepared for an appointment that might be full of difficult moments. If you find the dental appointment to be overwhelming then you need to discuss this with your dentist and see if there are other options you can explore. Some autistic children do not find the experience with a dentist to be a problem – I hope this will be your child.
Until next time have a good day and take great care of your health!