Visiting the dentist is so important for preventative care. Dentists help keep on top of your child’s dental health, preventing problems before they start. But oftentimes, children are prone to nervousness when it comes to clinical environments. Children, especially those with special needs, require extra care and consideration in order to make their experience at the dentist a positive one.
Special needs children can be sensitive to new environments, strangers, loud noises, and physical touch. Still, seeing the dentist is an essential part of your child’s overall wellness and should not be avoided. To make the process easier for everyone, here are some steps to take to help your child feel more at ease.
1. Find A Pediatric Dentist
If you have a pediatric dental clinic in your area, it doesn’t hurt to get that personalized care. While most dental clinics accept both adults and children, pediatric dentists and staff are specially trained in working with kids, including ones with special needs. They have likely experienced every situation and are best equipped to prevent or handle whatever comes up.
Appointment times are long enough that kids and parents never feel rushed. There is kid-friendly programming playing on TV during the appointment, games in the waiting room, and kid-oriented care bags to take home. The dental chair is smaller and the instruments the dentist uses are specially sized for small mouths.
A kid-friendly setting with appropriately sized equipment can help special needs children feel like they’re in the right place. They’ll see other children in the waiting room instead of adults, and their dentist will know how to communicate with them in a way that will make them feel more comfortable.
Call around to find the best pediatric dentist in your area and ask them about their experience in treating special needs children. The clinic staff should instill confidence in you before you book an appointment for your child.
2. Take It Slow
A good rule of thumb to follow for special needs children is “take it slow”. Talk about the appointment way in advance, reassure your child that it will be a fun experience. This will give them time to wrap their heads around the idea. You could even take them for an initial “meet and greet” before the scheduled appointment. This will allow your child to become familiarized with the dentist and clinical setting, and help humanize the dentist. They will show your child the instruments and demonstrate how they’re used, making them less intimidating when it comes time for the actual appointment. An initial consultation is a good idea for any parent and child, not just those with special needs.
3. Make A Narrative Around The Dentist’s Office
With kids, it’s useful to spark their imagination when charting new territory. If you’re bringing them to a pediatric dentist office, or one that you know has kid-friendly perks like a game room, TV, etc. talk it up to your child and get them excited. This can help relieve anxiety, and assist with their understanding of the whole process. Start by borrowing some children’s books about visiting the dentist from the library. Whichever book series your child loves, there’s probably a story about going to the dentist. Try to find one with pictures so your child can visualize what it will be like.
You can even tell your child a story about what their own dentist visit might be like. Imagine they’re an explorer, and to get the secret treasure they must complete a quest (teeth cleaning). Your child will feel brave and excited about starring in their own adventure!
It’s very natural for a child to be nervous about seeing the dentist—after all, so are adults sometimes! With a special needs child, it might take additional effort along the way to ensure the experience goes smoothly. Choosing the right pediatric dental clinic, slowly preparing them through open communication, and building up the appointment in a fun way through anecdotes and storytelling are all useful tools to make the process more positive and prevent negative associations.
A good dental clinic will be patient and supportive throughout the process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and do your research when selecting where to go. Your child’s dental health rests in the hands of their dentist! With help from all parties, your child’s experience will hopefully be like that of their favourite storybook characters.
Treehouse Dental provides kid-friendly dental services in Toronto, Thornhill, and Etobicoke. Give us a call at (416) 922-2668 or visit our contact page here for more information or to set up an appointment.