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Preparing an Autistic Child for the Dentist: Tips for Parents & Guardians

Taking a child to the dentist can be nerve-racking enough, but dental visits for children with disabilities can be even more stressful for all involved. If you have a child with autism, you may be wondering how you can prepare him or her for a dental appointment. Whether your child needs a routine exam or a more involved procedure, there are a few steps you can take to ease the stress and help your child feel more comfortable on the day of the appointment.

Find a Dentist That Specializes in Treating Kids With Special Needs

It's all about finding the right dentist, which means taking some time to do your research and selecting one that specializes in special needs dentistry. Before you schedule an appointment for your child, make sure that you'll be able to be in the room with your autistic child if this is something that will be important to you. You'll also want to find a dentist that will work to reduce the time spent in the waiting room, as this can be stressful for children with autism.

Autistic children also thrive on routines and consistency, so choosing a dentist that can accommodate your schedule and ensure your child will see the same dentist or hygienist with each visit is also important.

Read or Create a Story About Going to the Dentist

Once you've found the right dentist, it's time to start talking to your child about the upcoming appointment and what to expect. A good way to do this can be to purchase a children's book that is all about going to the dentist. Or, if you're a creative person, have some fun with it and create your own story. You know your child best, and your story can help to walk your child through what to expect at every stage of the appointment.

Prepare a Reward or Prize for After the Appointment

If your child is reward-motivated, there's nothing wrong with the promise of a prize or special treat at the conclusion of the dental appointment. Knowing that he or she is going to receive a new toy or a trip to the park can help your child better handle the stress of the appointment.

Above all else, trust your instincts and validate your child's concerns about going to the dentist. Many people get stressed about visiting the dentist, so your child should be assured that his or her feelings are normal — but that the appointment will be over quickly and caring for one's dental health is important. To learn more, contact a clinic specializing in special needs dentistry.