If you are the parent of a child with autism, we understand that there can be stress and challenges in preparing them for a dental appointment. Because many children with special needs often have severe dental phobia and sensory processing disorder, collaboration between parents and their dentist can greatly improve their dental experience. Developing a comfortable environment, rapport with the dental team, and consistent oral hygiene routines at home can lead to more positive outcomes when a child receives the dental care they need, especially when they are suffering from cavities, gum disease, and even tooth loss. Fortunately, with many dentists offering special needs dentistry, regular dental checkups and cleanings no longer have to be a traumatic experience. So, how can this be accomplished? Let Dr. Justin and Dr. Sage, our two board-certified pediatric dental specialists, share a few helpful tips to ensure your child’s next dental visit is less stressful and more enjoyable when finding your McKinney pediatric dentist.
The Sprout Team Approach
Dr. Justin, Dr. Sage, and our team at Sprout Dentistry for Kids have advanced training and experience in caring for children with Autism and other special conditions. In 2020, the CDC reported that 1 in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As with most medical conditions, increased awareness and understanding can lead to earlier recognition and early intervention that can have improved lifelong benefits. We encourage and recommend open communication and teamwork with parents to find the best situation for each child that we see. See some of the ways that we tailor our approach to the comfort level specific to each child. Complimentary Meet & Greets: We welcome parents that have apprehensive children to call and schedule a complimentary meet and greet in our office to meet Dr. Justin, Dr. Sage, and our team. This can help parents and children create a stress-free time just for them to see and be introduced to our approach. We can also offer to schedule a teleconference for you if that is an easier way to give you a virtual meet and greet with our office.
- Complimentary Meet & Greets: We welcome parents that have apprehensive children to call and schedule a complimentary meet and greet in our office to meet Dr. Justin, Dr. Sage, and our team. This can help parents and children create a stress-free time just for them to see and be introduced to our approach. We can also offer to schedule a teleconference for you if that is an easier way to give you a virtual meet and greet with our office.
- Collaboration: As the parents and caregivers, you know your children best, and we encourage open communication so that our team can create a comforting environment with minimized stress before your child.
- Items of Comfort: Tell us what things comfort your child during stressful times. We would love to hear any tips or thoughts you have on what we can do to make your child’s visit a great one. Feel free to bring their favorite toy, weighted blanket, or teach us their favorite songs to make their visit more enjoyable.
- Triggers: Please share with us in advance if there are any visual, audio, or physical stimuli that increase anxiety or make your child upset. We will do our best to minimize the presence of these triggers in advance of your visit.
- Streamlined visits: Any advance information you give us can make it easier for us to make your child’s visit more comfortable, fun, and efficient. We typically send our office forms electronically in advance of your appointment so that they can be filled out at home. We value your time and understand that more efficient visits are best for the kids, too.
- Sensory Rooms: We understand that some children can be easily overwhelmed at the site of the typical dentist office and exam room. We have rooms specially designed to minimize potential audio, and visual stimuli while creating more of a casual atmosphere for children with high anxiety during doctor’s visits.
- Desensitization visits: We can arrange for additional, short and simple visits focusing on building their confidence, comfort, and rapport with our team. This can go a long way to developing a lifelong dental home where your child feels at ease.
- Full-Service Pediatric Dentistry: We see children of all ages and are willing to move at the pace that you and your child are most comfortable with. We would love to be your child’s lifelong dental home and have options such as radiation-free dental decay detection using fluorescence, digital radiographs, non-surgical treatment options, in-office sedation, general anesthesia, and hospital dentistry options available. We are able to help you determine an approach that you are most comfortable with while protecting your child’s smile.
Inform the Dentist About Your Child’s Needs
Before your child’s first appointment, make sure you inform the dentist and team members that they have autism and don’t be afraid to disclose any challenges or concerns that could occur throughout the visit. Dental offices that offer special needs dentistry have team members who are better equipped to handle any potential fears, emotions, or actions the child might express during the visit.
If there is a particular time of day that typically works better for your child, make sure that is known when scheduling your appointment. Also, if possible, review the dentist’s website or ask for any photos that you can review with your child. This will help them to become familiar with the dentist’s office before their first appointment.
Practice at Home
When scheduling your child’s dental visit, ask about recommended steps you can practice at home. Helping your child become comfortable with some of the more basic cues they will need to perform during their appointment will make their visit less stressful. Some of the things you can practice at home include:
- Lying back in a reclined chair and placing their hands on their stomach
- Keeping their feet straight in front of them
- Holding their mouth open and making sure they know what it means to “open wide”
- How to properly spit into a sink
Let Your Child Become Familiar with Common Dental Tools
A child with autism may want to see, hold, and understand how certain tools work. Since many of the most basic dental tools can be purchased at a local drug store, you can offer your child the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the same items their pediatric dentist will use during their appointment. A dental mirror, “tooth pillows” (dental bite blocks), rubber-tipped gum massager, and a small flashlight are just some of the instruments you can buy before your child’s appointment and that can be worked into your child’s normal oral hygiene routine at home. Also, it may be possible for your dentist to provide sample bitewings for your little one to bite down on and ultimately make the X-ray process easier, should your child require them.
Dr. Justin and Dr. Sage want to make your child’s visit as comfortable an environment and experience as possible. By following these tips and learning how you and your child’s pediatric dentist can work together, everyone can feel more confident and at ease while your child receives the oral care they need and deserve.
About the Authors
Dr. Justin Chan and Dr. Sage Yoo are both fathers and board-certified pediatric dentists. Understanding that the dental office can seem like a scary place for young children, they go the extra mile to make all patients feel at ease. Believing all children should have access to high-quality dental care, they are pleased to provide services to those with mental and physical special needs. Dr. Justin and Dr. Sage combine their knowledge and expertise with the experience and training of their skilled staff to safely and effectively treat a variety of dental issues in a welcoming and relaxed environment. Dr. Justin, Dr. Sage, and the entire team at Sprout Dentistry for Kids embrace all members of our beloved community and are committed to providing compassionate care for all of our patients. If you have a child with special needs, visit our website or call (469) 301-3212.