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 (dentably.com)