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Strategies to Prepare Your Autistic Child for the Dentist

For a lot of people, going to the dentist can be stressful. The fluorescent lights, sterilized environment, and latex gloves probing your mouth can provoke a lot of anxiety and even dread. Especially if you have an autistic child, you know just how stressful this can be for your child but also for you. Over the years, you may have developed some strategies to help your child deal with the discomfort they might experience at the dentist. You know your child best. But if you have been having difficulties or just want to learn new strategies, consider some of the ideas we will look through.

Who is Your Dentist?

Not all dentists have the experience, training, or capabilities to work with patients who are on the autistic spectrum. A pediatric dentist may be an excellent place to start, as they work with a population of patients who are more sensitive to seeing a dentist. A quick google search for ‘pediatric dentist for autism near me’ might yield some leads. However, just because the dentist works with children does not mean they work with patients who are on the autistic spectrum. To get a better idea if a dentist might be a good fit, then there are some questions you might want to ask: Do you work with children with disabilities? Can the parent stay in the office with the child? If a child is uncomfortable and anxious, what would you do to ease the child?

Prepare Your Child for the Day

You do not want your child to go blind into any new and potentially frightening situations. It would help if you prepared your child; one way to do that is to describe the whole experience. You can even show images of the dentist's office and what the procedure might look and sound like. You want your child to have an expectation of all of the sensory input they might experience.

Keep Things Familiar

Since going to the dentist - or this particular dentist - might be a brand new experience, you can help ease the intensity of this new experience. You help ease the transition for your child by bringing in your child’s preferred toothpaste - this way, if your child despises anything mint-flavored, you can provide your child’s favorite blueberry toothpaste.

Another strategy to utilize on your visit with your pediatric dentist for your autistic child that you can use to keep things familiar is to bring an iPad or tablet so your child can watch some of their favorite TV shows, movies, or music videos. This may depend on the dentist and their office procedure, but it is worth looking into.

Speak with Your Dentist

Now, we mentioned this earlier, but the most important thing you can do is to talk to your dentist. A pediatric dentist for your autistic child can be an important relationship for your child to forge. Talk to your dentist about your child’s specific needs, and see if your dentist can work with you to create the most accommodating environment possible for your child. For a child on the autistic spectrum, going to the dentist can be a really challenging experience. Though the challenge may not seem worth the trouble, there are strategies out there that can help ease the experience for your child

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Merrick, NY