While few children truly welcome visits to the dentist, the event can be particularly distressing for a child with special needs. Since many special needs children experience stress when introduced to unfamiliar surroundings, the sights, sounds, and smells of the average dental office can be a very difficult place for both the child and their parents.
Parents of special needs children should not, however, postpone or avoid seeking dental care for their children. If you are the parent of a special needs child, the following information is designed to offer suggestions you can use to help your child enjoy good dental health without incurring unnecessary emotional stress.
Begin as early as possible
Helping special needs kids become more comfortable when visiting the dentist is easier when parents introduce dental care tasks as early as possible in the child's life. During the infant and toddler years, parents can begin introducing simple teeth and gum cleaning tasks each morning and evening.
Initially, parents can wrap their finger with clean gauze and use it to gently wipe their child's gums. Once teeth begin to erupt, parents can use a soft toothbrush and plain water to introduce a good daily brushing routine. Parents may also want to use a special song or music during the brushing routine to help their child become more familiar with the routine.
Acclimate the child before beginning treatment
Once a good daily brushing routine is in place, your child will be ready for their initial visit to the dentist. Before scheduling a date for the first exam, ask the dentist for permission to bring your child to the dental office for a few moments on one or more occasions.
During each of these preliminary visits, parents should work to help their child by sitting in a quiet corner of the waiting room and reading a favorite book or softly singing a song. After this, parents can ask the dentist to allow you to show the child one of the exam rooms and meet the staff.
Ensure that the dentist offers services for special needs patients
Parents will also need to ensure that the dentist they select offers appropriate care options for children with special needs. In addition to caring, competent dental care providers, parents may also want to ensure that the dentist offers sedation options that are safe for their child.
Developing good oral hygiene habits is especially important for children with special needs. To learn more, parents should consider making a appointment to discuss their child's condition and needs with a qualified special needs dentist.