Dental Visits For Autistic Children Are Easier With These Abcs

If you are the parent of an autistic child, you may dread semi-annual dental examinations and cleanings. You're not alone. In a 2010 survey, two-thirds of 400 parents with autistic kids said their children have moderate to severe difficulty with dental visits. These difficulties include screaming, physical aggression, and refusal to allow technicians to touch them. Because of this, dentists often resort to physical or chemical restraints in order to manage autistic patients. However, if you select a pediatric dentist who has been trained to work with autistic kids, you can expect these friendlier "ABC" measures to accommodate your child at the next visit.

Avoid stimulation

Autistic children often react negatively to loud sounds and bright lights. A dentist sensitive to this will offer rooms lit with soft, colored lighting rather than bright fluorescent bulbs. Instead of a popular radio stations, quiet instrumental music may pipe into the room. These simple measures create a much more soothing environment that takes the edge off a child's hyperactive nervous system.

Blanket with calm

Specially designed weighted blankets provide a sense of calm for many autistic children. The dentist may place one of these on top of your child during the dental examination and cleaning to help reduce anxiety.

Comfort through distraction

For an autistic child, focus is everything. It is possible, if a child is 'locked in' to something outside of the dental procedure that is taking place, that he/she will not even seem to notice the intrusion. For this reason, many pediatric dentists familiar with autism will allow their young patients to listen to favorite music or watch a movie on an iPod or iPad while in the examination chair.

The struggle is real

Autistic children who cannot tolerate routine dental appointments are in real danger of tooth decay and gum disease. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that, compared to a control group of non-autistic children, kids with autism had more cavities, poorer oral hygiene, and a higher number of unmet dental needs. Therefore, finding a pediatric dentist who knows how to accommodate your child is paramount.

These "ABC" measures can make all the difference between an afternoon of emotional meltdown and a pleasant feeling of accomplishment for your child. If your current dentist is more likely to offer restraints or general anesthesia for simple cleanings rather than a quiet room and a weighted blanket, find a new dentist. This resource guide from Autism Speaks is a place to start, but you can also contact the American Dental Association office and ask for provider information in your area. To learn more, contact someone like Myriam Cerezo DMD.