A trip to the dentist can be an extremely traumatic experience for children with developmental disabilities and special needs.
According to the CDC, recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six children aged 3 – 17 have one or more developmental disabilities. Additionally, many studies have noted that those who suffer with developmental disabilities also struggle with various stages of dental decay.
What You Can Do for Your Special Needs Child
Teaching your special needs child the fundamentals of dental hygiene can be hard — having a successful dental appointment can be even harder.
Once you find a dentist who can provide both the care and environment your child needs, there are steps you can take to minimize the stress your child feels by going to the dentist.
- Schedule familiarization appointments.
Scheduling your child’s appointment ahead of time can help them adjust to their new surroundings. This will allow them to become more accustomed to the lights, sounds, and smells associated with a trip to the dentist’s office.
During these visits you can also meet with the dentist and their staff to help your child become more comfortable and less scared or nervous.
- Tell stories leading up to the appointment.
Telling your child positive stories about visits to the dentist’s office in the weeks leading up to the appointment will help give them an idea of what to expect. It’s important that these stories emphasize a happy environment and not something associated with scary tools or pain.
- Come prepared.
Does your child have a favorite movie or TV show? Bring it along on a tablet or phone so they can watch while they’re in the dentist’s chair. The distraction will help to focus their attention on the screen and not what is going on in their mouth.
- Work with the office staff.
The staff at the dentist’s office is there to make sure your visit goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Before the appointment, call the dentist’s office to see if the appointments are running behind and if you can sign in a little later. This will help you to minimize the amount of time spent in the waiting room.
The Right Choice for Your Family
Finding a dentist who can provide specialized care for special needs children can be very difficult. Depending on the severity of your child’s developmental disability, general anesthesia may be the only way to provide treatment — something that not all dentists are qualified (or equipped) to provide.