3 Things to Expect When You Take Your Child with Autism to the Dentist

Posted by ​Dr. Greg Grillo on Jun 18th 2019

Going to the dentist can be an overwhelming experience for anyone, but for patients with autism this experience can be a lot harder. However, knowing what to expect and preparing for their dental appointment can help lessen some anxious feelings your child may feel. I have been practicing family dentistry for 17 years have come up with a list of what you can expect when taking your child to the dentist, and how you can be a positive experience.

1. Overcoming nerves

There is a chance you can expect some amount of anxiety in your child when you take them to a dentist. The bright lights, loud noises, strange tastes and smells of oral care products, and being touched by people can all cause sensory issues .

Luckily, there are ways to work to overcome these nerves your child may be feeling. A couple of things that you can do to work on these anxieties are:

  • Role-playing dental visits at home
  • Telling stories or watching videos on dental visits

There are many ways to work through the nervousness surrounded with going to the dentist. Try them all with your kids and make it a positive experience as you figure out what is best for your child.

2. Getting to know staff members

One thing that will come with visiting the dentist will be getting to know the office and staff members at your dental clinic. They will be working closely with your child so establishing a relationship with them is important.

If your child is feeling especially nervous towards visiting the dentist, try setting up a meeting ahead of time for them to visit the dental office. This will give them the chance to meet the office and staff before any work is done. They can also see what the office looks like which will make it more familiar when your child comes back for their appointment.

The staff members at your dental office are going to work to make your child’s experience as comfortable as they can. Let them know ahead of time any special accommodations you’d like to be made. These can include things such as specific toothpaste flavors or reducing waiting room time.

3. Preparing for future visits

After your child’s initial dental visit, it will be time to prepare for future visits. It’s recommended that your child visits a dentist once every six months. The hardest visit is going to be the first one and the more appointments they have, the more comfortable they will become.

Find out what went well in their first visit and what can be improved upon. At first, it may be a trial and error.

One thing that will help make future visits run more smoothly is if your child can work with the same staff each time. As mentioned before, establishing that relationship with office and staff members will be beneficial in the long run. Your child will be more willing to visit the dentist if they can be around people they are familiar with. It will help ease any anxieties your child may have previously had and make for great and positive dental check-ups.

Knowing what to expect when you bring your child to the dentist is the first step in overcoming any sensory issues your child may be experiencing. Always keep conversations around the dentist positive and encouraging. The dentist office can be a great learning experience for you and your child and is essential to their health and well-being. You, your child, and your dentist are going to establish a long-term relationship and work towards creating great dental experiences for your child. 

Dr. Greg Grillo (