Taking any child to the dentist can be a taxing endeavour for both of you, but taking an autistic child to a dental appointment can be even more stressful without a little forethought. The unique sensory and cognitive dysfunction that an autistic child must endure can make even a routine endeavour an overwhelmingly unpleasant experience, so it's important to take certain precautions to reduce the child's stress levels as much as you can.

Should I take an autistic child to a dental specialist?

A child with autism should always have their dental appointments at a specialised paediatric practise. Paediatric dentists and dental nurses are better trained and more experienced when it comes to mollifying a child's anxiety in the chair, and usually have a great deal of experience when it comes to treating children with developmental disorders like autism. If possible, choose a paediatric dentist who offers double appointments, to give your child more time to relax and recover during and after their procedure.

Preparing for a dental appointment

One of the best ways you can help a child with autism cope with the prospect of a dental appointment is by telling them about it as early as possible. Using something like a calendar to provide physical representation of the time between now and the appointment can help make the concept more concrete to the child, and allow them time to prepare themselves mentally. You can also read books or comics with them that depict dental procedures, and tell them about your own experiences in the dentist's chair.

Working with your child's dental team well in advance will also help to ensure smooth proceedings. Provide the dentist with a full medical history of your child, and inform them of common anxiety triggers, and objects or scenarios which trigger sensory overloads. If possible, take your child to meet the dentist and their team ahead of time, perhaps even showing them the chair, and some of the dental tools that will be used.

Keeping your child calm during the procedure

Once your child is in the chair, you should work with your child's dentist to thoroughly explain what they are about to go through, and why it is happening. Make sure the dentist takes time to answer any questions your child may have. Since the child's speech will be impaired, try and establish a hand signal that the child can use to convey that they are in too much distress.

In terms of sedation, some children will become so anxious and frightened that sedation becomes necessary. However, use of intravenous needles to administer sedatives is likely to distress your child even more, so discuss the possibility of using nitrous oxide instead. Nitrous oxide is administered with a simple face mask, and does not fully sedate the child, instead providing a great sense of calm.

For more information, contact a business like Redland Bay Dental Surgery Toothwise.