Given that the diagnosis of autism has increased dramatically in recent years and that so many autistic individuals have trouble dealing with new experiences, sounds, and meeting new people, children with this challenge are often at a higher risk than the general public of developing significant dental issues. Therefore, it is a good idea to be aware of the information provided below to better prepare your special-needs son or daughter for their future dental appointments.
Understand When Your Child Should See The Dentist
The American Dental Association has issued a recommendation that children should see the dentist for the first time within six months of the first tooth erupting. Since the average age for a baby to get the first tooth is about six months, that means that the majority of babies should see the dentist around their first birthday. After that, they should see the dentist every six months.
Unfortunately, almost half of all children as young as two years of age do not see the dentist as often as they should and many autistic kids don't get the dental care they need.
Speak With Your Child's Behavioral Therapist About Practicing Adequate Oral Care Before The Appointment
If your young child sees an occupational or behavioral therapist, it is a good idea to ask if that professional can help you to prepare and desensitize your your son or daughter to receiving dental care. In that instance, it is often better to include that preparation early and repeatedly for best results.
Specifically, experience emulation and practice exercises to mimic the dental visit that are provided by a behavioral therapist can be quite useful for an autistic child. It can even more useful for a child who needs to know what is going on and lacks the cognitive ability to do so without extra help and preparation. They can also be done with you at home.
Desensitize Your Child To The Experience With Daily Practice Of The Dental Appointment At Home
Since so many autistic children have issues being touched or being in the near proximity of new people, one way to make an actual dental appointment easier in the future is by repeatedly practicing the events that will occur during that visit. For instance, you can teach your son or daughter to lean their head back, open and close their mouth upon request and work on methods that allow them to be more comfortable with the entire experience. The previously mentioned behavioral therapist may have other ideas and techniques that are helpful.
If your child can tolerate it, another option to consider is the use of safe, plastic dental toys that they can practice with on their own to remove the mystery of the actual appointment will include. In addition, some autistic children benefit from attending the dental office without receiving any care. One option that has been successful for some autistic kids includes entering the dental office and being rewarded with a sticker, sugar-free lollipop or another tangible, appropriate award without actually seeing the dentist for the first visit or two.
In conclusion, many autistic children have issues with dental appointments, often due to the unexpected experiences, new physical contact or unknown people in the immediate area for prolonged periods of time. Talk to your dentist, someone at a place like Dentistry For Children & Adolescents, to see what other accommodations might be able to be made.