Depending on their sensory sensitivities, going to the dentist can be a challenge for autistic children and their parents. The medical setting, the noises, and the procedures can lead to many different sensory issues. Even finding a dentist who has autism-friendly procedures in place can be a challenge!
We wanted to list a few tips and general information that may help make your child’s next visit to the dentist easier.
Practice Dental Care at Home
The first tip is a very important one. While it is impossible to simulate a dental visit at home, children can still learn about and get comfortable with certain aspects of dental care. Common sensory issues you should be aware of with at-home dental care include:
- Toothbrush bristle size & firmness
- Flossing techniques and floss flavor & style (waxed or unwaxed)
- Water temperature
- Toothpaste flavor & style (paste, gel, etc)
- Mouthwash preferences (start with mild, ‘no-sting’ or kid-friendly brands)
- Flavors in general (as fluoride is available in different flavors at the dentist)
To simulate a visit to the dentist before your appointment, you may want to try:
- Practicing dental hygiene while your child is seated
- Removing sweets a few days before the appointment
- Making a visual aid for the date the appointment is scheduled
Talking to your child’s therapist about an upcoming dental appointment is also a great way to get more helpful information directly related to your child’s needs.
At-Home Dental Tools for Children with Autism
Brushing and flossing are obvious aspects of dental care to practice, but other dental tools can be purchased for home use. Tools like power toothbrushes, dental picks, and fluoride kits are all commonly found in dental offices but can also be purchased by anyone.
Common dental tools recommended to help get a child comfortable before a visit include:
- Toothbrushes of different firmness & size
- Power toothbrushes
- Different types of floss
- A Waterpik
- Small flashlight (as dentists use lights)
While Waterpiks and power toothbrushes aren’t required, they may help prepare your child for dentist-specific sensory issues. Again, talking to your child’s therapist before a scheduled dental appointment may shed some light on other tools that may help.
Finding an Autism-Friendly Dentist
There aren’t many comprehensive autism-friendly dentist lists available on the internet. This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to searching for a great dentist, however.
Many dental professionals list autism-friendly on their websites or advertisements. This makes using search engines to find them very easy. Use search terms like ‘autism dentist near me’ or ‘autism-friendly dentist’ to start your search.
You’ll still want to call the dentist’s office to get a feel for their services and discuss your child’s needs. Make sure to have a list of any sensory issues that may pop up when talking to a potential candidate. Be sure to bring any safe toys or object your child needs to feel safe in an outside environment.
There are many options for dental care in urban and suburban areas. Make sure to find a dentist that will make your child feel as comfortable as possible.
ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants
If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans to use ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.