How to Find the Best Dentist for Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Specialized Care for Your Child
Finding a dentist for your family can be challenging; and if your child is on the autism spectrum, it may feel impossible.
Children on the spectrum may have different experiences at the dentist than other children. There are new things to hear, see, and touch that can easily create a sensory overload.
Some children will find these things fascinating, but many children with autism spectrum disorder will get confused and scared. And if your child has an additional medical condition that requires specialized care, you need a dentist who knows how to help them.
Every child deserves regular dental checkups from a qualified dentist, preferably one with pediatric experience. Parents caring for a child with autism spectrum disorder should understand a few key points when choosing the best dentist.
Practicing at Home
You can alleviate your child’s fears by preparing them at home before your first visit. Use stories and pictures to help your child understand what will happen at their upcoming appointment. Role play by having your child sit in a pretend dentist’s chair while you inspect their teeth using a mirror.
Create a list of things that could make your child more comfortable at their first appointment. They could bring a security item, such as a favorite toy or a small blanket. The X-ray shield may act as a weighted blanket for some patients, creating a sense of comfort.
Finding the Best Dentist for A Child on the Spectrum
While the prep work before the appointment is crucial to a successful visit, that’s only half of the battle. Before scheduling an appointment, it’s critical to do some research to find the best dentist for your child. But what do you look for, and what should you ask?
Not all dentists have experience working with children with special needs to create a safe space for them. Parents must understand a few essential qualities to look for when finding the best dentist for child on the spectrum.
1. Find a pediatric dental specialist.
A pediatric dentist has additional education and training in working with children. Their training includes managing the treatment of children with special needs. Choosing a dentist who specializes in caring for children is essential to ensuring your child gets the care they need.
2. Ask about their experience working with special needs children.
Most dentists have a section on their website that lists their education, training, and skills. Not every dentist may feel comfortable working with children who have autism spectrum disorder. Verify that the dentist lists their training or experience with children with special needs.
3. A Helpful and Resourceful Staff
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few offices, call and ask some questions. Find out whether the staff knows of any resources to help prepare your child, like recommendations for books about visiting the dentist. Ask for a preliminary visit to help prepare your child or schedule an appointment when it’s less crowded.
If the staff cannot help you with any of your questions, it might not be the most appropriate office for your child.
4. Research their reputation.
You can learn a lot about any business through reviews and recommendations. Check websites and other review sites, such as Google or Yelp, and learn what current and previous patients are saying.
5. Schedule an initial visit.
Schedule a preliminary visit when you find an office that seems to be a good fit. During this visit, your child won’t have a dental exam; instead, they will meet the dentist and other team members. This visit will help your child understand what will happen during their checkup.
The dental team may help your child become familiar with their office by allowing them to sit in the examination chair and touch and see the various instruments and products used. Your child will experience different smells and sounds associated with the dental office, making these things feel more familiar on the day of their checkup.
6. Observe their communication style.
Children with autism spectrum disorder may show negative behaviors when anxious and struggle to communicate their needs. A dental staff that seems friendly, relaxed, and positive when speaking to your child may ease some of their anxiety.
The tone and volume of the dental team’s voices are essential. Those who speak too quickly or loudly may cause sensory overload. This is a sign that they may need more experience working with special needs children.
Ensure the staff understands basic behavior management. For example, a hygienist might praise your child throughout the visit, explain what will happen before each procedure, and allow your child to examine things in a sensory way.
Visit Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists.
Whatever dentist you choose, it is important they have good rapport with your child. It may be worth driving a few extra miles for your child to see the best dentist. Omaha Pediatric Dental Specialists has four locations: Grand Island, Hastings, North Platte, and Omaha, Nebraska. Contact us today to learn how we can help your child.