Special needs boy at dentist

Dental Care for Kids with Special Needs

All kids are special, but some have different needs than others when it comes to handling social interactions. There are also children with physical differences, such as developmental delays in fine motor skills, who may need a bit more help with oral hygiene than others. Timpanogos Pediatric Dentistry has some tips for taking a special needs child to the dentist and helping them with oral care at home.

Prepare at Home

Routine can be an important element in any child’s life. A child with special needs, whether it’s Autism or anxiety, may especially benefit from daily routines that teach them life skills and allow them to grow.

Preparing for dental visits starts at home, whether your child has special needs or not. It’s important to make brushing and flossing a regular daily task. Even if you just have your child get familiar with holding a toothbrush, and rinsing their mouth with water, it’s great preparation for actual brushing.

Dealing with Sensory Issues

Some children have sensory issues, which means brushing and flossing are difficult tasks. Give yourself permission to try different types of manual and automatic brushes, water picks, floss textures, and toothpaste until you find one that works for your child. Did you know you can purchase non-foaming toothpaste that might make the experience more enjoyable for your child? There are also unflavored options if taste is an issue.

Couple Brushing with Another Activity

Distraction can be a powerful tool when teaching a child with special needs about oral hygiene. This may mean you combine brushing with another activity your child loves. It could be done while reading a book, watching TV, or in a warm bath. Maybe your child wants to see what’s going on while their teeth are being brushed; let them see in a mirror what’s happening.

As with any preparations for visiting the dentist, role play with your child so they are familiar with what will be asked of them, and what might happen at the dentist. Watch videos or read books that help your child understand what a dental visit entails.

Practice Visit

There’s no rule that you can’t visit a dental office lobby and meet the staff before your visit. If you think a “meet and greet” with a pediatric dentist will help your child feel prepared for their official visit, give us a call.

Preparation at the Office

Before you head out the door for your child’s dental visit, give the office a call. Whether or not the dentist and assistants specialize in oral care for children with special needs, you can discuss some expectations.

Tools for Success

Children are welcome to wear noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets, or listen to music if it helps them get through a visit! You know what’s best for your child, so let the dental staff know ahead of time what you’ll be bringing. If you’re visiting an office that caters to children with special needs, they may even have supplies available for your use when you arrive.

One Step at a Time

If you think gradually introducing different aspects of a dental visit will benefit your child, let the office know when making each appointment. For example, perhaps on the first visit, the staff gets your child comfortable with opening their mouth for a visual inspection. The next visit may include the staff touching each tooth and counting them. Over time, your child may be comfortable letting a hygienist brush their teeth, floss, or take an x-ray.

Some offices may even be able to accommodate you by having a private exam room for you and your child, helping to eliminate some of the noise and distractions that may be overwhelming. 

What to Do During a Dental Visit

When you do make it to a pediatric dental appointment, provide positive reinforcement in the ways that best speak to your child. Be sure you and the dentist know ahead of time how much oral care will be administered during this visit. 

Sometimes, all the preparation in the world isn’t enough to make a dental visit comfortable for your child. If that’s the case, you can explore options for relieving anxiety such as medication or light sedation. Being afraid of the dentist is not unique to children with special needs; anyone can find the experience uncomfortable! There’s no shame in trying a variety of methods to get the task accomplished.

If we can help you get your child more familiar and comfortable with dental care, feel free to reach out to Timpanogos Pediatric Dentistry HERE, or by calling (801) 207-9080.


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25 North 1100 East

American Fork, UT 84003

(801) 207-9080

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