Dentistry for Special Needs: 7 Tips for Making Dentist Visits Less Stressful

Look for a dentist who specializes in providing for the unique needs of special needs patients.

Look for a dentist with experience caring for special needs patients and talk to them about your concerns in advance of your appointment.

If you have to start World War III to get your child to brush their teeth, you are not alone! Many parents have a difficult time getting their children to understand why it is so important to brush their teeth daily. This task can be even more difficult if you are raising a child with special needs.

Because children with certain medical, intellectual and physical disabilities may be more susceptible to mouth problems, it’s important that your special needs child is comfortable when the inevitable trip to the dentist occurs. Here are 7 tips to make your child’s visits to the dentist less stressful:

  • Dental care starts at home. Make sure you are cleaning your child’s teeth daily. If your child resists the traditional way of tooth brushing, try to brush your child’s teeth with their head in your lap. This can sooth their nerves.
  • Make tooth-brushing time easier for your child. If your child can’t grip the toothbrush, cut a hole in a tennis ball and slide the toothbrush through. If that doesn’t work, try using a piece of Velcro to wrap around the child’s hand and hold the brush in place.
  • Practice healthy eating habits. A bunch of grapes or slices of an apple make much more desirable snacks than store-bought munchies.
  • Find a dentist who has experience working with children with special needs. Not all dentists have the training, experience or desire needed to care for people with special needs. Look around for dentists who specialize in special needs patients and ask other parents who have children with special needs for a referral.
  • Talk to your dentist ahead of your child’s appointment to address concerns. Ask the dentist what to expect and how to prepare your child for meeting the dentist. Make sure to tell your dentist about any behaviors that may inhibit his work or about eating habits that may contribute to tooth decay.
  • Make your dentist a part of your child’s health team. Visiting a dentist should be held at the same priority level as visiting your the medical doctor.
  • Help to make your child feel safe at the dentist. Avoid using words like “shot” and “drill” or phrases like “be brave.” This can add to your child’s anxiety.

Do you have experience with special needs dentistry? If you have additional suggestions for parents, please leave them in the comments.

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