Visiting The Dentist With a Special Needs Child
By popular demand, I want to talk to you about going to the dentist. Many, many people have asked us about the dentist. I don’t know why so many people consider the dentist a horrible place to go. It’s actually a great place to go because it’s preventative care! But I think most feel frustrated with going to the dentist because of the reactions they get from their children.
No one really likes anyone poking around in their mouth. It can be a very sensitive area. But it is important for our kids to learn that process, and the significance of it. Remember, our mantra is to prepare and plan for difficult situations. We have clients who now have no problem going to the dentist but had a terribly hard time when they first started going. We worked out a plan, and now it’s not a horrible process anymore.
How can you plan to make this experience a good one for your child?
1. Interview your dentist.
First, interview your dentist. Choose an office that understands your kiddo, and that you feel comfortable working with. This really depends on your child, and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. That’s why it’s important to go interview a potential dentist, look at the office and see if you see your child sitting there.
2. Tour the office before treatment.
Dentists that are sensory-friendly will usually allow you to tour the office with your kiddo when they’re not undergoing treatment. Going in there and having something done can be very overwhelming. Tour through the facility first.
3. Choose a pediatric dentist.
Many of them have private rooms, where your child can be seen if they’re overwhelmed by the facility. Some pediatric dentists will offer different games or activities the child can do while the dentist is working on them. This can be a great distraction! If your child does well with reinforcement, many pediatric dentists build their treatment plans on offering reinforcements for compliant behavior at the end of treatment.
4. Tell a story.
Present some sort of story or picture sequence to your child, showing them exactly what will happen at the dentist. Read or make them a story that tells who the dentist is and what a dentist does. Why do we go to the dentist? Our kids may not understand who this person is or why we go to see them. It’s important to give them the information beforehand.
5. Take it slow.
You can also start off with a very brief consultation. You may be able to arrange a consultation where they don’t even go into your child’s mouth, but just look at their mouth. We suggest taking very slow steps like this, and adding one step at a time. We like to say “slower is faster.” You’ll accomplish your goals much more quickly if you plan them out and if you’re methodical about it. Often times it’s that impulsive push to do something faster that pushes our kids over the edge. And many of them, once they experience that, take 10 steps backward in their progress. It’s so important that we don’t send them backward!
Whatever dentist you choose, we will work with you. We have several families who come here for treatment right before they go to the dentist’s office, and we have some who come here for treatment right after the dentist’s office. We can do whatever works best for your child, and your therapist can give you some great suggestions on that.
But be encouraged, we have lots of kids who had a terrible time going to the dentist at first, but now have no problem with the dentist at all! Managing going to the dentist is an important skill, and it’s not a skill to be dreaded! Remember that we’re always here to make recommendations and help you with that process. We also have a resource list of several sensory-friendly dentists that we’re more than happy to share with you. Need help? Give us a Call!
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