Dental care is an extremely important part of your overall health. This is especially true for children, who are still growing and developing. The AAPD recommends that children see their dentist every six months and that the appointment should include a cleaning, fluoride treatment, exam, and x-rays. However, for children with special needs, an appointment at the dentist can be a stressful situation. Here are some tips for taking kids with special needs to the dentist.
Use Social Stories
According to the CDC in 2018, one in every forty-four children in the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Many children with autism respond positively to the use of social stories to help them navigate different situations in their lives. A social story about the dentist’s office would lay out the expectations for the visit in calm, clear text. To help your child prepare for their appointment, you could get a social story about a dental visit. Explain how it is good for your health, as well as what treatments the child can expect to deal with during their trip. If your child uses a social story before the visit, they will feel more comfortable knowing exactly what is coming during their appointment.
Find a Dentist That Specializes in Special Needs
Not every pediatric dentist will be an expert in treating patients with special needs. If there is one available in your area, try to take advantage of their services. These dentists will have extra training and experience that will help them provide the right dental experience to their patients. This could include everything from the drugs they offer with treatments to how the waiting room is set up. Working with a dentist who specializes in special needs can also help you avoid getting stressed out yourself. If you know that they will be able to make the appointment go smoothly, you’ll feel less anxious and that calmness will impact your child’s feelings as well.
Stay With the Same Dentist
Many children with special needs thrive on routine and predictability. If you find a good dentist in your area, stay with them throughout your son or daughter’s childhood. Not only will you know you can trust the dentist with their care, but your child will also feel less nervous about their appointments. This will establish dental habits that are good for their overall health. These habits can also carry over into adulthood. In 2019, a survey showed that 64.9% of adults over the age of 18 had visited a dentist within the last year. Help your child remain in this majority by establishing a strong routine as a child.
Bring a Comfort Item
If your child gets nervous at any health appointments, a comforting item from home can make them feel a lot better. This could be a stuffed animal, small toy, or anything else that can stay with them without interfering with the dentist’s work. Ask the office what kinds of toys they allow children to bring in, then make a plan to bring something that will help your child stay calm during the appointment. By allowing them to choose a toy to bring with them, you allow your child some control over the situation. You also let them have something familiar during a visit that can be somewhat scary.
Children with special needs sometimes need to be treated differently when it comes to how you manage their health and healthcare. Going to the dentist can be a very scary experience for them. If you take some steps to ease their fear, it can make the whole process much easier for them and you. As you plan your next trip, apply these tips to make it easier.