How to Prepare for the Dentist with an Autistic Child

If your child has autism, you know any new experience you expose them to has a greater chance of being successful if you take the time to prepare them. The first visit to the dentist cannot be stressful because if it is, your child could become anxious before future dentist appointments. With regular dental checkups being so important to your child’s overall health, we recommend taking steps to make sure it goes smoothly.

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, we’ve put together five helpful tips to make sure your autistic child has an enjoyable trip to the dentist.

Find a dentist comfortable with children on the autism spectrum

Before you make an appointment, ask questions such as:

  1. Do you work with special needs children?
  2. Can I or should I stay in the room during the entire exam?
  3. How do you deal with the child’s anxiety?
  4. What do you do if the child’s behavior makes the exam difficult?

You might want to make an appointment to ask these questions in person so you can watch how the dentist responds to your questions. Be sure to let the dentist know the time of day that works best for your child.

Does your autistic child hate specific flavors?

If the answer is yes, ask if you can bring the toothpaste your child uses at home. A dental practice that understands how to work with children on the autism spectrum will understand the importance of making accommodations like this.

Do bright lights or loud noises bother your autistic child?

Children on the autism spectrum can often be extremely sensitive to their environment. You know your child best. If you know that he or she is sensitive to light, bring sunglasses. If noise bothers them, bring earplugs.

Teach your child what to expect

Many aspects of a dental exam contain things that your child might have never experienced before. Show your child how to sit with legs straight and hands on their stomach. Have your child practice opening their mouth wide and keeping it open. Count each tooth and introduce a power toothbrush so your child understands how a power brush feels. Also, practice spitting into the sink.

You can purchase a dental mirror and rubber-tipped gum massager at your local pharmacy – this can be helpful to get your child comfortable with the tools used at the dentist. When you make an appointment to interview the dentist, ask if they can give you dental bite wings so your child can practice biting on them. This will help your child know what to expect if X-Rays are taken.

Create a picture book for your child

To help your child visualize the entire experience, take photos of the parking lot, front door, waiting room and examination room of the dentist office. Reviewing the book often will help your child feel comfortable the day of the exam.

Dr. Joey Troupe and the entire team at Polished Dental welcome the opportunity to be your dentist. We offer three offices in the Pittsburgh area and invite you to contact us at 412-281-3546.

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