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.
As many of you know, April is observed as Autism Awareness Month in the United States. Through the years autism awareness has increased, but shouldn’t there be more? Aside from being aware of autism in general, maybe we should raise awareness of the downside of exposing ourselves to a world that is still not sure what to do with us.
Being surrounded by people who are merely aware of autism isn’t enough. Then again, being around people who are aware of autism may also be too much to bear. In some instances increased awareness drives an even larger wedge between those of us on the autism spectrum and others? Why, because the more knowledgeable people are of our differences, the higher the wall of stigma.
Autism Awareness in of itself does not guarantee that we will be considered viable members of society. Autism Awareness does not guarantee that our strengths and weaknesses will be included in the common fabric of humanity. Autism Awareness does not guarantee that we will have equal rights in opportunities for education, employment, and housing nor does autism awareness guarantee that we receive appropriate medical attention, even under the umbrella of whole person-centered care.
So why is it so difficult to be aware and accepting of autism? Maybe people don’t know how to accept autism. It’s not rocket science. Autism acceptance is taking the time to get to know us as individuals, recognizing our strengths and challenges, and being thoughtful in diversifying problem-solving; systematically removing barriers to promote seamless inclusion. With acceptance, adaption to differences in ability would become second nature.
There is no shame, disgrace or dishonor in having an autism spectrum disorder. Such notions tend to motivate parents to lean towards highly questionable treatments and therapies, a sort of fools gold encapsulated in hope-filled attempts to “cure” autism.
There is no cure for autism.
Amidst the infinite listings of traits and ubiquitous connotations, one fact still links us together…we are all human. Can that be enough?
This year, let us not only look to ways of raising autism awareness but let us also be part of the push to increase autism education and ACCEPTANCE.
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