Going to the dentist for the first time can be intimidating for many children; for those with autism, the experience is often heightened as it changes their established routine. As a parent, you have the opportunity to shape this experience and make it as comfortable as possible. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests several tips you may find valuable:
- Meet with the dentist ahead of time to discuss your child’s individual patterns and behaviors. Explain any concerns you have and address them one by one.
- Bring your child in for a series of “desensitization appointments” so he or she can become familiar with the office building, staff, and equipment. During these appointments, show your child the dental chair and ask him to sit and become comfortable with his surroundings. Ask the dentist to do a “practice cleaning” with a normal toothbrush that your child is familiar with. Request that the dentist explain and demonstrate each step so your child is not taken by surprise.
- Allow your child to bring a comfort item from home – perhaps a favorite stuffed animal – to hold during the appointment. You can also request to sit in on the appointment and hold your child’s hand or offer verbal encouragement.
- Talk to your child about the appointment in positive, uplifting terms. Describe it as a fun or exciting experience and emphasize the “rewards” he might receive, such as a sticker or new toothbrush in his favorite color.
- Going forward, request appointments with the same staff, time, and office to establish your child’s familiarity with the dental routine.
For more tips about making your child’s visits successful, talk to your dentist. The oral health professionals included in your True Care Advantage discount dental plan are more than happy to discuss your individual situation and make accommodations to meet your needs. By using your membership, you can save money on routine cleanings and other procedures, helping you keep your child’s teeth healthy for less.