ASD at the Dental Office: What to Know and What to Do

If you have a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may be nervous about their first visit to the dentist. While regular dental visits are essential to ensure that children’s teeth develop properly and they maintain good oral health, visits can be challenging for children who have developmental disorders. Here’s what you can do to make that first dental visit go smoothly.

Let your dentist know in advance.

Before choosing a dentist for your child, call their office and explain that you will be bringing in a young patient who has ASD. Ask if they have previous experience providing treatment for children with ASD. Many dentists will be willing to make special accommodations for your child, especially if you provide them with advance notice.

Practice with your child before the visit.

Many children who have ASD are distressed by disruptions to their routine, and something as dramatically different as a visit to the dentist can be especially upsetting. Many dentists will allow you to make a few “happy visits” to their office, so children can become used to the office environment, sitting in the chair, and even watching and listening to the dental equipment.

Be mindful of sensory issues.

For a child, going to the dentist means encountering a lot of unfamiliar sensations, from the sound of the drill to the feeling of having their teeth cleaned. This can make many children anxious. Bringing along a favorite toy, letting your child wear sunglasses to block out the bright light, and bringing headphones to minimize unfamiliar noises can all help to make your child’s dental visits as stress-free as possible.

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