The one thing all parents of children who fall under the umbrella of ASD quickly learn, is to take away the element of surprise from upcoming events as much as possible.
Regardless of your child’s individual sensory requirements and level of understanding, preparing them for any event that may present challenges is always a good plan, and a visit to the dentist could be quite harrowing for your child without adequate preparation.
The most important first step to making a trip to the dentist run as smoothly as possible is to find a dentist who is child friendly. Ensure they have some experience of working with children who have special needs and know how to make their dental visit a fun and non-threatening event.
Ask other parents in your network of friends and through your child’s school or care facility for recommendations, most will gladly recommend a dentist who has been caring and accommodating of their child’s needs.
When you ring to make an appointment, have a talk with the reception staff about your child’s needs. Ask if it is possible for your child to have a tour of their rooms before his/her consultation, to have a look at and touch the equipment that may be used and become familiar with the process.
Allow your child to take along a comfort item or favourite toy with them for their dental visit, and keep the first visit short and positive, more of a familiarisation than a treatment if possible.
Keep in mind that many children with ASD sensory issues are easily overwhelmed by noises and sensory overload, therefore ear muffs or headphones with soothing music may help to drown any disturbing noises made by drills and suction tools. Several short consultations are often more successful than trying to rush through treating more than one tooth at a time.
Make sure the dentist explains each step of each process before it happens and shows each tool and explains its purpose before using it. It is important that your child does not feel rushed and is given enough time to absorb and become comfortable with each piece of information and process.
No matter how well you try to prepare some children, the entire process of a dental examination and treatment can simply be beyond their scope of coping skills. Sedation may work for younger children, or the option of a general anaesthetic may be offered to your child through some dental hospitals or clinics.
Above all try to encourage your child to maintain their own oral hygiene and health as it is the best course of prevention for dental problems.