dentist shows child tools

Taking Your Child With Special Needs to the Dentist

Even without special needs, going to the dentist can elicit anxious feelings. There is an uncertainty, the potential possibility of drilling, and the sound in your mouth, so close to your ear. Even adults struggle. That being said, there are some things you can do ahead of time, to ensure that your little one has the best possible experience.

Check-In with Your Child’s Dentist

Be sure that you call the dentist ahead of time. Let them know that you’re bringing your child with special needs. Discuss if they can handle said needs. Ask them questions about how they’ve accommodated kids in the past. Make arrangements for the first visit to be more of an introduction and consultation to slowly introduce them into dentistry. Let them know about your child and triggers that can set them off.

Explain the Process

Let your child know about the upcoming visit. Practice how the experience will go. Let them know that they will sit in the waiting room until it is their turn, and then, they will be seated in a reclining chair, wear “sunglasses”, and someone will brush his teeth with a special toothbrush. Show them how that will work physically. Show them a picture of the dentist online and a picture of the hygienist, if possible. Knowing there is a familiar face can help ease their worries. Talk positively about going and focus on how this is going to be a great experience. Read them books about going to the dentist. Research videos online that show going to the dentist is easy. Letting them know that dental care is part of life and everyone goes may help them to feel more optimistic about going. Also, explain that they are going to a kids’ dentist, so he specializes in pediatric care.

What to Do Before Your Visit

Before the big day, drop by the dental office to visit with the space and staff. Introduce your child to the doctor and hygienist. Let your child glance at office arrangements. This pre-visit can help them see that they’re going to a safe place with friendly people and things are going to work out.

Staying in the Room

Most dental offices provide a chair in the cleaning room, where parents can sit, while their children get their teeth cleaned. For some kids, this is a safe-guard and it helps them to feel calm. However, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. This may be a conversation to have when you first schedule the appointment. See what the hygienist prefers and commit to it. The dental staff is a group of professionals. Your child will not be the first or only child to feel nervous about the dentist. Let them work their magic!

Talk About it!

After the visit, discuss with your child what they liked. Focus on the good things. Let your child know that you’re proud of them for going and that you are excited to have such a great dentist. This will help them feel calm and positive about the experience.

Going to the dentist can be a great experience for everyone—even for a child with special needs.  Choose to make it the best experience possible by working with your dentist and doing a little bit of prep work. Stay positive and focus on the good. It will all work out!


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