Children with special needs can sometimes struggle when going to the dentist. Kids who have a disability, including sensory issues, physical disabilities, and mental disabilities, do best with a dentist who has experience or specializes in special needs patients. This ensures the experience is as pleasant as possible. If you have a child with special needs and you are worried about your first dental visit, the following tips may help:
Prepare Ahead of the Appointment
To help your child prepare for the dental visit, it helps to already have a good oral hygiene routine established. Some children with special needs may have fears of just brushing their teeth, so it is important to practice every day.
If your child has a fear of the toothbrush, you can start by wiping your child's teeth with a washcloth. Cloth is softer and less intrusive than a toothbrush. You can transition to a toothbrush slowly. Once your child has mastered the toothbrush, you can then work on flossing. Over time, your child will become used to the oral routine and may be more receptive to having a dentist work on their mouth. The key is to be patient. You cannot expect your child to be ready to go to the dentist immediately. Your child may even regress from time to time. Keep going with your routine each day to help your child get used to oral hygiene.
Work With a Trusted Dentist
Once you feel comfortable with the idea of taking your child to the dentist, you should do some research to find the best person for your child's needs. Call different dental practices in your area to ask about how they work with special needs children. You can make consultation appointments with the practices you believe will work best for your child. At the consultation, you will get a chance to ask questions, learn about the practice, and meet the staff. You can generally get a feel for the practice once you visit in person. This consultation also introduces your child to a dental office and can make the entire experience less scary.
Prepare for the Dental Visit
Actually going to the dentist appointment may be difficult for your child the first time. A few days before the appointment, begin to casually bring up the dental visit to your child. Before you leave for the appointment, give yourself enough time to get ready and go to the office. Bring your child's favorite toy or comfort item to hold during the appointment. Be sure to manage your expectations. Your child may get upset and cry, so try to prepare for that as well. Over time, the process may get easier on both you and your child.