You probably remember the bright lights, loud noises, and strange tastes of your first dental appointment. You probably felt a little scared but got used to these sensory elements the more you visited the dentist.
A child’s first dental visit is important, especially for children with autism because those sensory elements we just mentioned can be more difficult to process for them. Luckily, knowing what to expect at your child’s dental appointment can help you prepare for their appointment and help lessen some anxious feelings your child may have. I have been practicing family dentistry for 17 years and know how important it is for your child to have a positive experience at the dentist office. That’s why I have come up with a list of what you can expect when taking your child to the dentist, and how to prepare to make it a positive experience.
It’s common for anyone to feel nervous at their first dental appointment, so this is expected. There are many great ways to help overcome nerves and sensory issues your child may be feeling to help them at their dental appointment.
Practicing at home is one great way to start working through any nerves. Role-playing dental visits at home and telling stories or watching videos about dental checkups have helped many patients I have had throughout the years. There are many different ways to work and prepare for your child’s dental visit, and it may take a while to figure out what works best, but never give up. Do what you can to make going to the dentist a positive experience for your child. Your dentist will be right there beside you helping you along the way.
1. New people
Another thing that you will for sure experience at the dentist is meeting new people. As you begin going to the dentist more frequently, you will quickly be getting to know the office and staff members at your dental clinic.
If your child is feeling especially nervous towards visiting the dentist, try setting up a familiarization appointment ahead of time for them to visit the dental office. This will give them the chance to meet the office and staff before any work is done. They can also see what the office looks like which will make it more familiar when your child comes back for their appointment.
The staff members at your dental office are going to work to make your child’s experience as comfortable as they can. Ask any questions you may have regarding your child’s appointment and let them know ahead of time any special accommodations you’d like to be made. These can include things such as specific toothpaste flavors or reducing waiting room time. Think of you, your child, and your dentist as a team. Teamwork is the best way for your child to have the most positive experience at the dentist.
Going to the dentist gives you and your child an amazing opportunity to establish a positive relationship between you guys and the staff at your dental office. They will be working closely with your child so having this relationship is important.
3. Future dental visits
Finally, it is extremely important to your child’s overall health to visit the dentist regularly so be prepared to schedule future visits. It’s recommended that your child visits a dentist once every six months. Note that your child’s first visit is going to be the most difficult, but it will become easier with each visit. Make note of what went well during the first visit and what can be improved on. At first, it will be trial and error but enjoy the learning process.
One thing that many patients with special needs benefit from is working with the same staff each time. As mentioned before, establishing that relationship with office and staff members will be beneficial in the long run. Your child will be more willing to visit the dentist if they can be around people they are familiar with. It will help ease any anxieties your child may have previously had and make for great and positive dental visits.
It’s very common that people experience nerves when they visit the dentist. You probably remember feeling a little scared at your first dental visit, too. However, children with autism often have more difficulties when it comes to visiting the dentist. Thankfully having an idea of what to expect can help you prepare for your child’s appointment.
Be sure to keep conversations around the dentist positive and encouraging. Visiting the dentist is a great learning experience for you and your child. Remember that proper dental care is essential to your child’s health and well-being. Embrace learning about the dentist with your child as they begin to overcome their fears and become comfortable at their dental appointments.
About Dr. Grillo:
Dr. Grillo spent eight years at the University of Washington and received a bachelor’s degree with honors before attending the School of Dentistry on the same campus.From there he was selected for a Health Professions Scholarship by the United States Navy where he served as a dental officer for four years.
While in the navy, Dr. Grillo served tours in South Carolina and Japan, treating families of squadron military members and receiving advanced training in multiple areas of specialized dentistry. He especially enjoys caring for growing families in his practice and remains passionate about incorporating new technologies into his work that enhance the patient experience.
Dr. Grillo continues to take numerous continuing education courses on all aspects of dentistry and is also involved in a variety of community activities in the Omak area outside of his work.