Autism and the Dentist

Imagine what going to the dentist must be like for a child with Autism – a child who is sensitive to noise, light, being touched and not always understanding his world – then throw him into a chair with a bright light in his face, with a stranger touching his face and sticking shiny, noisy tools in his mouth all while the suction is making that awful sound right next to his ear. Recipe for disaster.

If you are in this situation, here are some things to look for.  Start with a pediatric dentist.  In general, they will have more empathy for the fears a child may have.  Then, ask directly if they have an Autistic patience.  This question will tell you if they are going to be willing to work with you or not.

Next, ask if they have a “quiet room” aka a completely sound proof room where a child can scream in terror without bothering anybody else or mortifying his parents. There ARE dentists out there that provide this.  The idea is a new patient starts out in “the quiet room” with a dentist who wants to work with them until they are comfortable enough to be next to other patients.

Ask how long an appointments is.  Does the dentist take extra time with children who need to ease into the world of enduring a dentist appointment? And ask if they have a plan for how they make the child comfortable.  There are dentists out there who are willing to spend an hour where barely anything  is accomplished except counting teeth and verifying nothing was horribly wrong. They are willing to endure a little screaming and lots of tears but they are working to get the child to a positive place so they will be more comfortable going to the dentist.