Helping children with special needs at the dentist
Taking children with special needs to the dentist can be daunting.
Children and the dentist
For most children, their first visits to the dentist can be scary. The experience may be new to them. Children do not like the feeling of not knowing what is happening to them. Children may have heard adults saying that going to the dentist is not a good experience.
Often, children will grow out of this. After their 3rd or 4th visit, heading to the dentist will be a breeze.
For some kids though, this isn’t the case. Children with special needs such as Autism and Asperger’s may struggle with visiting the dentist.
Autistic children can find visiting the dentist particularly distressing
Why would a child with special needs find a visit to the dentist particularly challenging? This is partly because of the intense sensitivity of their five senses. There are bright lights above the dentist’s chair. They will hear unusual and sometimes unnerving sounds in the treatment room. Special needs children can have a very sensitive sense of smell. The classic, sterile dental practice smells are very much noticeable features of the dentist. Whilst a visit to the dentist may seem trivial to you or I, a dental practice is essentially a sensory overload. This could cause children with special needs to become severely distressed.
Challenging and unpredictable behaviour seen at the initial dental appointments with an autistic child is caused by anxiety. This is not only from the child, but also from the parent. Sadly, research has shown that some parents of autistic children are reluctant to take their child to the dentist. They are afraid of the uncertainty of how everyone involved will react.
Dentists who specialise in treating children with special needs
Ensuring a dentist is right for you and your child’s special needs is crucial. General family dentists may not have all of the skills to look after your child properly.
If you have a child with special needs, look for a Paediatric dentist. A Paediatric dentist has studied for at least 2 further years to gain qualifications specifically in looking after children. Generally speaking, a Paediatric dentist will look after their patients from birth until they are 16 years of age.
Dr Libi’s Toothfairy Tips
Dr Libi is one of the highest qualified paediatric dentists in the UK. Click the link below to see her advice, hints and tips on fun ways to help look after your child’s teeth.
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 let the dentist know what they are feeling.
Find a child friendly dentist near you
Click the link below and type in your location. Choose the advanced search and click ’Child Friendly Dentists’. This will give you a list of dentists near you who can help. You can also read their patient reviews!