|Children With Special Needs
|Dental Management for Children with Autism
Daily life with a special-needs child presents many unique challenges, one of which is dental care management. Our goal is to assist you in maintaining good oral health for your child. We want to make this a positive experience for both you and your child.
- Children with autism need sameness and continuity in their environment. A gradual and slow exposure to the dental office and staff is recommended.
- We offer parents and children the opportunity to tour our dental office prior to the first appointment, so that the child may ask questions, touch equipment, and get used to the office. We also recommend bringing comfort items, such as a blanket or a favorite toy.
- You know your child best. Therefore, we ask for suggestions from the parent or caregiver on how best to interact with the child.
- We will approach the autistic child in a quiet, non-threatening manner.
We also use a "tell-show-do" approach to providing care. We explain the procedure before it occurs. Our assistants will show the instruments that will be used.
- We will invite your child to sit alone in the dental chair to become familiar with the treatment setting.
- Autistic children often will want to know what's going to happen next. It is important to explain things in a way that will make sense to them – our staff is trained to do this.
- It is also important to tell the autistic child where and why you need to touch them, especially when using dental or medical equipment.
- We also know to talk in direct, short phrases. Autistic children take everything literally – so it is important to avoid words or phrases with double meanings.
- Once the patient is seated, we begin with a cursory examination using only our fingers.
- Next, we would use a toothbrush, or possibly a dental mirror to gain access to the mouth.
- We always praise and reinforce good behavior, and try to ignore poor behavior.
- We invite the parent or caregiver to hold the child's hand during the dental examination.
- Some autistic children can be calmed by moderate pressure, such as by using a papoose board to wrap the child. One the other hand, "light" touch (such as by air from the dental air syringe) can agitate them. For instance, you are more likely to have problems wrapping a blood pressure cuff around the arm than by inflating it!
- Some children will need sedation or general anesthesia so that dental treatment can be accomplished. If this is the case, our office has dates set aside throughout the year to provide general anesthesia, and our doctors may discuss this option with you.