Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

Search This Site

Dentist Tips for Aspergers and HFA Children

"My  son would rather have a mouth full of cavities - and the pain that goes with it - than go to the dentist. Are there ways to help a child with Aspergers become less fearful of dental work?"

Children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have the same rate of dental problems as the general population. As hard as it is for most children to go to the dentist, it’s even harder to have a positive dental experience for kids on the autism spectrum. Even so, there are some things you can do to improve the dental experience for your child.

Below are some tips. Some will work - some won't. But everything here is worth a try:
  1. Visit the dentist’s office before an actual visit.
  2. Have the child touch the equipment.
  3. Explain to the child what will happen.
  4. Have the child bring a comfort item like a favorite toy or blanket.
  5. It is a good idea to have a gradual and slow exposure  to the environment of the dental office so your child doesn’t get frightened by the experience.
  6. Make sure you tell the dentist how best to handle your child.
  7. Tell the dentist what works and what doesn’t work when working with your child.
  8. Remind the dentist that children with Aspergers are more easily overwhelmed by an overload of the senses, which can over-stimulate the child.
  9. Ask that the dentist keep the chaos in the office to a minimum.
  10. Make the child’s first visit to the dentist positive and short; have the dentist count the teeth or something else innocuous.
  11. Ask that the dentist approach the child as quietly and as non-threatening as possible.
  12. Have the dentist explain everything to the child and show the child what’s going to happen before actually doing it.
  13. Praise the child for acceptable behavior and have the child sit in the dental chair for awhile so he/she can become accustomed to it.
  14. Aspergers children want to know what’s coming next without having to be surprised, so have the dentist tell the child where and why he needs to touch the child, especially if you’re dealing with dental equipment.
  15. Ask that the dentist talk calmly and avoids words that have double meanings; these children take everything literally, so it’s important to say exactly what you mean.
  16. Ask the dentist to start the exam using only his/her fingers.
  17. Ask the dentist to avoid shining the light in the child's eyes.
  18. Using a toothbrush to examine the teeth is a good idea because it’s a safe, familiar item. The dentist can use a dental mirror after that.
  19. Ask if you can hold your child’s hand during the dental examination.
  20. Anything that is familiar will make for a good experience.
  21. Some Aspergers children respond well to being lightly wrapped in a small blanket during the examination. In other cases, the child will need sedation or will need to undergo general anaesthesia in order to accomplish any significant dental work. General anaesthesia is especially important in older children that don’t respond well, even to light sedation.
  22. You may want to preview this social story and see if it might help alleviate some anxiety in your child as it relates to dentist visits. This is a true story told by the autistic child himself.

Good luck!


•    Anonymous said... A pediatric dentist. An ultrasonic toothbrush to minimize need for dental work. Alpha-Stim for anxiety.
•    Anonymous said... find a hygenist and dentist that will take the time to work with your child not against them
•    Anonymous said... I agree find a dentist & hygenist that are willing to take the time that's needed with your son. We were referred to a pediatric dentist who specialized in special needs children...let's just say that this man shouldn't be allowed to work on ANY child. We had far better luck with a local dentist who was up for the challenge
•    Anonymous said... I found a dentist that specializes in special needs patients, and that was very helpful for my son. Hopefully you can find one in your area. good luck.
•    Anonymous said... I was terrified of the dentist when I was younger so was determined my son wouldn't be like me ( obviously didn't know until later he was an aspie ) I took him with me each time I went to the dentist from a baby and the dentist always looked at him at the same time so he doesn't have the fear. I do actually pay now though as he is no longer nhs but my son doesn't want another dentist xxx
•    Anonymous said... It will depend a lot on having a good dentist that will set him at ease. My daughter's dentist can do whatever he needs to do because he built up the trust with her first.
•    Anonymous said... My 6 year old son just had fillings done yesterday! I was really surprised how well he did!! He had the "conscious/twilight sedation" but he was pretty much awake the whole time. He drifted in & out, but did AWESOME!! See if you can find a dentist that does that type of sedation. Just be careful that he doesn't bite/chew on his lip when he is numb afterwards. My son has a very sore fat lip now.....but other than that he did great!! Best of luck!!
•    Anonymous said... My 6 yr old ASD son is so disturbed by having his face and mouth touched that every time we brush teeth it is a big struggle. He developed 3 cavities from it and when we tried to have his regular dentist feel them he had the biggest meltdown of his life. Eventually the dentist had to make a referral to the local children's hospital to have him put under, so that the cavities could be fixed. What an ordeal. Yet, he still fights me on brushing his teeth.
•    Anonymous said... My son does well with the laughing gas but we've found his issue is the noise of the tools. We also now let him listen to his MP3 or IPod while he's getting work done and life seems to be much easier.
•    Anonymous said... My son hates being touched by doctors and the dentist. Positive reinforcement, reassurance helps. My 9 year old goes to a pediatric dentist that is very good with him.
•    Anonymous said... When my Aspie son was 10 we finally got referred to the children's hospital dental clinic. We had a lot of major work done with the amazing skills of the staff there. My son found the "laughing gas" helped him relax. After many appointments the dentist kindly told my son that he now needed to learn to go back to a regular dentist, as many children were waiting to get into the children's hospital for dental work. We have been able to go to our family dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings for the last few years. It seems his positive experiences helped him change his outlook. Good luck finding the right dentist to help your son.

Post your comment below…


Anonymous said...

Same thing here. It has to do with the sensory issue, more than any fear.

Anonymous said...

My son for the first time was 9 when he finally went and that's is his obsession with not losing his teeth.

Anonymous said...

One thing I WILL not do is take my son to a dentist who uses physical restraints. I'd rather my son miss an appt than be scared half to death by a dentist who uses those papoose boards! Luckily my dentist doesn't at least to my knowledge. I always go in with my son. I've heard a lot about these devices lately.

Anonymous said...

I used music. My son has to have a Zune with Toby Keith playing and he is great!

Anonymous said...

Please let parents know to always stay w/their children at all Dr. visits. Our children are very misunderstood and are sometimes considered defiant or difficult but we all know that is not true. I finally found a special needs pediatric dentist. It was costly but worth it!

Anonymous said...

From the article: "Some Aspergers children respond well to being lightly wrapped in a small blanket during the examination..."

The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that the AAPD guidelines state when stabilization is used, it should always be the least restrictive, but safe and effective. In addition, parental permission must be obtained prior to using a papoose board and noted in the child’s dental record along with the length of time the papoose board was used and how the child behaved during its use. AAPD indicates that the use of a papoose board might be indicated when: (a) patients require immediate diagnosis and/or limited treatment and cannot cooperate due to lack of maturity or mental or physical disability; (b) the safety of the patient, dental staff, or parent would be at risk; (c) movement of sedated patients needs to be reduced.

Beth Aune said...

Also, ask the dentist and hygienist to do the treatment and exams in a more upright position. Tipping the head back in a reclined position increases anxiety for many children with ASD due to the hyper responsivuty of the vestibular system.

Beth Aune said...

Also, ask the hygienist and dentist to do the treatment and exam in a more upright position. Being fully reclined with the head tipped back creates an autonomic nervous system response for many ASD kids due to the hyperesponsivity of the vestibular system. Try allowing the child to use the controls to tip himself back.

Kristin Brown Designs said...

My son wore sunglasses during the exam so the harsh lights weren't as bad - it helped!

Healthy Webtips said...

For about 30% of patients, the origin of their dental phobia dates back to childhood and is due to traumatic experiences during dental treatments !
I hate dentists :)

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

Click here to read the full article…

Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

Click here to read the full article...

Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

Click here to read the full article...

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content