Do’s and Don’ts When Preparing for Your Autistic Child’s First Dentist Visit

That first trip to the dentist for your autistic child can be scary for them and for you. I’ve been a dentist for more than 17 years and understand your fears.

I also focus on families and ways to enhance the experience of going to the dentist. With that said, here are some do’s and don’ts of how to prepare for your autistic child’s first visit to the dentist.


1. DO: Ask Questions

Asking questions is the best way to be informed about what is going to be happening during your child’s first visit.

Get as much detailed information as you can prior to your first visit and use the information to prepare yourself and your child.

A couple of questions you can ask are:

What can I expect during my child’s first visit?

What accommodations can be made for my child?

What will you do if my child begins to feel uncomfortable?

Do you offer any sedated dentistry?

You can find even more questions here.


DON’T: Stay Quiet

Staying quiet and not having detailed information is going to make that initial visit to the dentist difficult for you and your child. Your child is going to rely on you for comfort.

If you don’t have an idea of what to expect, it will be challenging to prepare your child for that day. This is why asking questions will be beneficial to you and your child.


2. DO: Familiarize Your Child

There are a fair amount of ways to familiarize your child and prepare them for what they can expect when they visit the dentist.

One way is to visit the dental office prior the actual dental appointment. This way they can see the chairs, hear some of the noises, and even meet some of the staff they will be working with.

You can also practice with your child and have them open their mouth wide and lay with their hands on their stomach. It’s important that your child gets comfortable with these types of movements.

Videos are also a great resource to prepare your child for their visit. You can find a dental tool-kit to help your child know what to expect during their visit here. 

Also,  The American Dentist Association (ADA) also walks you through what a visit to the dentist may be like for your child.


DON’T: Do Nothing

Your child trusts you, which gives you the opportunity to really prepare them to be as comfortable as possible before the dentist sees them. I know you may be nervous because you want it to be a positive experience.

But not preparing your child runs the risk of the visit going poorly. A few simple practices will make a big difference in preparing your child for their visit to the dentist.


3. DO: Be Supportive

You are child’s largest support system. There are many different ways to help your child prepare. Assuring them that their dental visit will go fine is oe great way. 

Listen to their concerns and fears. How can you make these nervous feelings not as strong for them?

Give them coping strategies, like relaxing their muscles and thinking of a favorite place. Talk about some of the silly noises you might hear when you’re in there.

Like I mentioned before, familiarizing your child with what they can expect at their first visit is a great way to show your support.


DON’T: Show Your Nerves

This may be easier said than done. You’re most likely just as nervous as your child, and the important thing here is to be their support system.

Do your best not to show those nerves. If you can appear relaxed for your child, it will help them feel more relaxed, too.

If you feel overwhelmed with fear but don’t want your child to see, try looking to other family members. You need support  during this time too, and family can be a great source. Just as your child expresses their concerns to you, you may be able to share yours with someone you trust.


There are many ways to prepare for your child’s first visit to the dentist. While both of you may be feeling anxious for this visit, many of my patients have used these tips to help, and you can, too.

Many resources are available for you to turn to for information and guidance surrounding your child’s medical needs.

Remember, you are your child’s strongest support system and you are in charge of the visit at all times. You will be able to help them feel most comfortable at their first dental appointment.


Written by Dr. Greg Grillo (

5 Replies to “Do’s and Don’ts When Preparing for Your Autistic Child’s First Dentist Visit”

  1. Maybe add a little to your article about bringing their favorite sensory items. Things they feel or taste or smell or listen to, to make them feel calmer. And as a last resort calming medicine. Fast acting oral medicine is usually the best way for the least amount of stress. And make sure it doesn’t interact badly with any anesthesia or things you will be using during the visit. Put them in the closest room to the door. Not too far in where they have to walk alot it makes them anxious. If the lights are too bright or too many sounds or people. Let them know if they are feeling anxious that the door is right there and they can go outside anytime they need to. It’s a good idea to have a window for them to see out of also. It helps the mind believe it’s in control. And keeps them calmer. Water provides hydration and oxygen levels, so let them know that it’s available. Taking their bp and respirations to reassure them that it’s not hurting them will help. Joke as much as you can. It helps ALOT… This also works for PTSD and anxiety and chlostrophobia and asthma and some head trauma and people with muscular or nervous system issues and high blood pressure . Sometimes infection can mask itself as one of these or with one of these. So be careful to check thoroughly for infection. Sometimes it’s not localized in the area of the tooth and it’s somewhere else in the body then effects the tooth or person later. Just a few things I wish every dentist knew.

  2. What i do not realize is actually how you are not actually much more well-liked than you may be now. You’re very intelligent. You realize thus considerably relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from so many varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated unless it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

  3. One bit of advice I have is even if your child is fully verbal, teach them and yourself a bit of the local sign language. No one can talk with a mouth full of dentist hand and dental tools, and if you can sign things like “pain”, “cold”, “thirsty”, or “talk to me”, it can make you a lot more comfortable.

    And dentists, please learn the local sign language! ASL would be so much more helpful to me if my support person didn’t need to translate everything I sign.

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