7856 Village Center North, Suite 200, Sherrills Ford, NC 28673

Our Dentistry Guide for Children with Autism & Sensory Issues

A trip to the dentist can make many children nervous. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or individual sensory issues, though, the abundance of new sights, sounds, smells, and sensations can be even more overwhelming. In today’s post, our Sherrills Ford pediatric dentist shares tips on making dental appointments easier for children on the autism spectrum.

Schedule an Advance Visit

The best way to prepare a child with autism for a pediatric dentist appointment is to prepare them well in advance. Many dentist offices will allow you to schedule a tour in the weeks or days before your appointment, which can help familiarize your child with the setting and decrease his or her anxiety. This initial visit will also be a great time to introduce your child to the dentist, and discuss his or her individual needs, concerns, or challenges with the dentist or staff members. This will help us arrive prepared, too!

Create a Visual Schedule

A visual schedule, or social story, can also be very helpful in preparing children for their visit to the dentist. You can perform this either at the aforementioned office visit, or at home. Simply break the process of going to the dentist into smaller, repeatable steps, and practice each step until your child understands and feels comfortable with the procedure. For instance, you and your child may make the trip to the dentist, meet the front-desk staff, and sit in the chair (without receiving treatment), then go home with a prize. This gradual approach may be helpful in promoting familiarity and alleviating anxiety.

Sample Visual Schedule for a Trip to the Dentist

Below is a sample visual schedule for a trip to the dentist. Some families find it helpful to laminate this schedule, or cut out each step and arrange them on a board with Velcro. As each step is completed, it is crossed off with a dry-erase marker, or removed.

  1. We will be visiting the dentist today to make sure my teeth are clean and healthy.
  2. We’ll walk into the office the people at the front desk our names.
  3. We will play games, color, or watch television, until a hygienist calls my name.
  4. The hygienist will lead us to a room with special chairs, like the chairs in a plane.
  5. The special chair will move up and down and lean back.
  6. I’ll keep my hands on my belly and my legs out in front of me while I sit.
  7. I’ll open my mouth as wide as I can so the dentist can look inside.
  8. The dentist will use a bright light to see my teeth better.
  9. I can ask for sunglasses or close my eyes if it is too bright.
  10. The dentist will count my teeth with a special mirror. It may tickle a little.
  11. The dentist will take special pictures of my teeth, called X-Rays.
  12. I may have to bite down on the tool that helps take the pictures.
  13. I will wear a heavy apron while the X-Rays are taken.
  14. The dentist will clean my teeth with special tools. He or she will show me each one and tell me what it is before using it.
  15. When all my teeth are clean, I will spit into the sink.
  16. The dentist will give me a plastic bag with a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
  17. If I have been on my best behavior, I will get to choose a special prize when I leave the office!

Need a Pediatric Dentist in Sherrills Ford NC?

With proper practice and preparation, dental visits for children with autism spectrum disorder does not have to be a stressful event. Our local pediatric dentist office welcomes families of autistic children and those with special needs, and will strive to make every visit to the dentist a positive experience. To schedule a dentist appointment in Sherrills Ford NC, please click here.