Helping your child with autism overcome their fear of the dentist is important. The ADA recommends that children see the dentist every six months to prevent dental problems and cavities. Many children fear going to the dentist. Children with autism may experience particular sensitivity or aversion to the dentist. How you address the fear may take a little extra effort. Here are some tips for quelling your child’s fear of going to the dentist.
Use A Schedule to Do A Count Down
For a child with autism, a visual calendar that includes a count down to how many days are left until their appointment can be helpful. It’s important to keep your child with autism organized. Calendars and other visuals can help them to stay focused on what they are doing right now and what they will be doing in a few days. You can start the count down about two weeks out and talk about it every day. This can help to keep the fear down. It will certainly help to keep the surprise factor at bay. Children with autism often do better with tasks when they know what to expect.
Watch Videos Together
Consider finding videos that show other children going to the dentist. This tip is useful for children with autism and children that don’t have autism. Watching a video that shows a child going for a dental exam can help a child relate to the situation. Talk about the video as your child watches and comment on all the steps that the child takes during the video.
Repeat the steps several times. For example, first, you walk into the office, then you get in the chair. Then you have x-rays with a big machine that does not hurt, then the dentist takes a look, and finally, you’re finished! You can incorporate this little reminder about the routine every day that you review the visual calendar together.
Exam Stuffed Toys Together
If your child with autism has a favorite stuffed toy, talk about the stuffed toy and how it needs to go to the dentist too. Pretend to check the toy’s teeth. This can help your child to get a visual of what to expect. Remember, fear of the dentist is often rooted in not knowing what will happen. Pretend play can be a good way to show how it all works. If your child loves cars, which have come a long way since the steam engine was invented in 1769, use their toy car for your pretend “dental exam”. You can create a complete scene for them, showcasing the dentist in a positive light.
Use Snacks as a Positive Reward
If your child with autism loves a particular snack, use this to your advantage. Treats do not always have to be sugary options. You can offer chips, pretzels, or popcorn as a reward option. If everything else fails, offer something special for trying to make it through the exam. This could be a trip to the zoo or the amusement park.
Use The Right Dentist
If you can find a dentist that specializes in treating children with autism, that would be the ideal option. Dentists are small business owners. 25% of small businesses will make it past 15 years in business. A dentist that specializes in providing care for children with autism should have ample experience under their belt. Not every dentist has the specialty training that is needed to provide focused care for children with autism. It may be difficult to find a dentist that specializes in treating children with autism, so be sure to do some research.
Try some of the tips that you find here to help calm your child’s fears. Enlist other family members to help if you need it. Dental care is an important part of overall health care. Working with your child to calm their fears will ensure an easy exam.