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What to Expect When Taking Your Child with Autism to the Dentist

Dr. Greg Grillo (

Going to the dentist can be an overwhelming experience, especially for patients with autism. There are bright lights, loud noises, and strange tastes and smells. These sensory elements can make going to the dentist hard for children and patients with additional needs. Luckily, knowing what to expect for their dental appointment can help lessen some anxious feelings your child may have.

It’s important that you begin taking your child to the dentist from an early age, to prevent future dental emergencies. However, if your child does experience a dental emergency you can receive the help you need here. I have been practicing family dentistry for 17 years and know how important it is for your child to have a positive experience at the dentist office. That’s why I have come up with a list of what you can expect when taking your child to the dentist, and how to prepare to make it a positive experience.

1. Experiencing nerves

Your child may be feeling anxious about visiting the dentist, especially if it’s their first time. This is expected, so don’t worry. There are thankfully many ways to work to overcome these nerves your child may be feeling and avoid other issues. A couple of things that you can do to work on these anxieties are role-playing dental visits at home and telling stories or watching videos about dental checkups. There are many ways to work through the nervousness surrounded with going to the dentist. Work together with your child to find which methods work for you for working through nerves and preparing for their dental visit. You want it to be a positive experience for your child, and your dentist does too.

2. Meeting new people

One thing you can expect with visiting the dentist is meeting new people. You will quickly be getting to know the office and staff members at your dental clinic. You and your child have an amazing opportunity to establish a positive relationship between you guys and the staff at the dental office. They will be working closely with your child so having this relationship is important.

If your child is feeling especially nervous towards visiting the dentist, try setting up a meeting ahead of time for them to visit the dental office. This will give them the chance to meet the office and staff before any work is done. They can also see what the office looks like which will make it more familiar when your child comes back for their appointment.

The staff members at your dental office are going to work to make your child’s experience as comfortable as they can. Let them know ahead of time any special accommodations you’d like to be made. These can include things such as specific toothpaste flavors or reducing waiting room time. Think of you, your child, and your dentist as a team. Collaboration and teamwork are essential in assuring the success of your child’s dental visit.

3. Preparing for what’s next

After your child’s initial dental visit, you can expect to prepare for future visits. It’s recommended that your child visits a dentist once every six months. Your child’s first visit is going to be the most difficult, but as you start to visit the dentist more often and figure out what works for you and your child, the more comfortable they will become. Find out what went well in their first visit and what can be improved upon. It’s going to be trial and error but enjoy the learning process.

One thing that will help make future visits run more smoothly is if your child can work with the same staff each time. As mentioned before, establishing that relationship with office and staff members will be beneficial in the long run. Your child will be more willing to visit the dentist if they can be around people they are familiar with. It will help ease any anxieties your child may have previously had and make sure of great and positive dental visits.

Knowing what to expect when you bring your child to the dentist is the first step in overcoming any nerves or anxieties your child may be feeling. Always keep conversations around the dentist positive and encouraging. Visiting the dentist is a great learning experience for you and your child. Remember that proper dental care is essential to your child’s health and well-being. Embrace the learning experience completely as you help your child become comfortable at the dentist.

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