Helping Autistic Children With Dental Visits

autistic children at the dentist

Sometimes, taking a child to the dentist can be particularly challenging.

autistic children at the dentist

The experience may be new to them – they may be scared of feeling pain or feel worried about not knowing what is happening. Often, children will grow out of this and after their 3rd of 4th visit, heading to the dentist will be a breeze.

For some kids though, this isn’t the case. Children with developmental disabilities such as Autism and Asperger’s may struggle with visiting the dentist.

Autistic children can find visiting the difficult particularly distressing.

This is partly because of the intense sensitivity of their five senses. The bright lights above the dentist’s chair, the unusual and sometimes unnerving sounds in the treatment room alongside the classic, sterile, dental practice smell are all noticeable features of the dentist.
While a visit to the dentist may seem trivial to you or I, a dental practice is essentially a ‘sensory overload’ and could cause children with autism to become severely distressed.

autistic children at the dentist

In addition to this, children with developmental disabilities find it hard to express themselves. As a result, the child may not be able to tell their dentist that they are experiencing pain or discomfort during their visit to the dentist. Alternatively, it is difficult for a dentist to anticipate how an autistic child would react to pain in the chance that the child did experience discomfort. Some autistic children are non-verbal, which also causes difficulty in communication but this can be overcome using non-verbal communication techniques such as using Makaton or PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).

Challenging and unpredictable behaviour seen at the initial dental appointments with an autistic child is caused by anxiety, not only from the child but from the patient and also from the dentist. Sadly, research has shown that some parents of autistic children are reluctant to take their child to the dentist due to uncertainty of how everyone involved will react.

In certain cases, a dentist may suggest the use of sedatives in order for successful treatment to be carried out.

This is only done in extreme cases where a treatment is absolutely necessary and cooperation from the child is non-existent/very minimal.

autistic children at the dentist

Ensuring a dentist is right for you and your child’s needs is crucial. The general environment of the practice and its facilities is also an important factor to consider when choosing a dentist for an autistic child. On our website, you are able to view hundreds of dental practices in the UK. You are able to see inside of them, learn about the teams that work there and learn about the treatments and services that the practice offers. Simply search your location and browse your options.

Ultimately, talking to your dentist beforehand about your child’s disability will allow them to tailor the treatment process to your child’s needs. They will be able to develop a form of communication that allows your child to feedback to the dentist what they are feeling and if they need to have a break during their appointment.

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