Tips for Preparing for Your Child with Autism’s First Dental Appointment
This post has been written by Dr Greg Grillo, director of dentistry and dental expert at Dentably. He talks about the ways you can prepare your child with autism when going to their first dental appointment.
Going to the dentist for the first time can be overwhelming for any child. There are many sensory elements at the dentist’s office. These include loud noises, bright lights, new tastes and smells. While nerves usually go away the more a child visits the dentist, these sensory issues can be much harder for children with autism in the United Kingdom. Despite these difficulties, there are many ways to help your child with autism prepare for the dentist and have a positive experience. I have been practising family dentistry for 17 years and have worked with many families to help prepare their children for dental visits. I’ve compiled a list of the best tips that you and your child can try before their first dental appointment.
Ask plenty of questions
As you and your child prepare for their first dental appointment, be sure to talk with your dentist and ask a lot of questions. Questions are the best way to get detailed information about what dental appointments are like and what you and your child can expect. Here are a few questions to guide your conversations with your dentist:
- What kind of experience have you had working with children with autism?
- What can I expect at my child’s first dental visit?
- Can you make any accommodations at my child’s appointment?
These are just a few questions to get you started as you and your child prepare for the dentist. Anything that comes to your mind should be asked so you can feel comfortable at your child’s visit and so can they.
Familiarise your child
There are a lot of things you can do to help familiarise your child with what happens at the dentist.
One great way that many families have benefited from in the UK is by scheduling a familiarisation appointment. These appointments involve you and your child visiting the dental office before any work is done on your child’s teeth. It gives you both the opportunity to meet the office and staff members and get a sense of what the office is like.
Another way to prepare your child for their visit is practising at home. Visual tools are a great way for your child to get a sense of what the dental visit will be like. You can read story books or watch videos about dental checkups to put a picture in your child’s head of what their visit might be like. You can also play pretend and turn a dental appointment into a game. Also, you can play the dentist and your child will be the patient and you can have them practice laying with their feet out flat and their mouth opens wide. This will give them an idea of how they will be sitting during their actual checkup.
Being supportive is the most effective, yet simple way to help your child prepare for their first visit. While the both of you may be nervous, as a parent, your child will look up to you for comfort. Be reassuring to them that their dental appointment will go well and take the time to teach them the importance of dental care. Listen to their concerns and fears and work through ways to make some of those overwhelming feelings less strong. With enough preparation, love, and support your child will be able to have a positive dental appointment.
While a child’s first dental appointment can be overwhelming, there are many ways to prepare them for a positive first visit. A child with autism may have difficulty processing the sensory elements that come with visiting the dentist. But by asking questions, familiarising them, and being supportive, they can work to be comfortable at future visits. Dentists in the UK are experienced and more than willing to work with your child and their unique needs. Dental care is extremely important to your overall health. So, never give up on helping your child with autism to be confident at the dentist.
You might also like to read Social Stories for Autistic Children.