Visiting the dentist can often make kids anxious. For kids with special needs like those suffering from autism, the experience can be more unpredictable. Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that often impairs the ability to interact and communicate normally, combined with repetitive behavior. When combined, these impairments present a number of challenges to dentists when conducting oral checkups or performing dental procedures.
That’s why finding a professional dentist for an autistic child in Reno is vital. The first step in ensuring good dental health for your child is ensuring that you’re following the right dental health habits from a young age, combined with regular dentist visits. If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, this article will help you understand the common dental problems that autistic kids face and the steps you can take to help them maintain good oral health.
Dental Problems Seen in Patients With Autism
Poor oral health is a problem seen across all types of kids, whether diagnosed with any condition or not. While some dental problems can be genetic, autistic patients often face a number of problems when it comes to keeping their dental health in check. Kids with autism can be quite uncooperative both at home and during dentist visits, in terms of maintaining oral hygiene, largely due to their impairments. This often leads to different dental conditions.
Here are some of the most common dental problems in patients with autism:
- Early age and late tooth decay
- Severe and early periodontal gum disease
- Constant grinding of teeth (Known as brutism)
- Tooth anomalies and development issues
- The delayed, accelerated, or inconsistent eruption of one or more teeth
- Tooth discoloration, pits, lines, and other tooth development defects
- Gingival overgrowth
Depending on the severity of your kid’s autism, they may find it difficult to communicate their dental problems, like when they’re experiencing dental pain. Unfortunately, this may result in emergency dental problems advancing to a point where options like sedation dentistry have to come into play to help your child relax so that necessary checks or procedures can be done. Working with a dentist for an autistic child in Reno will help you diagnose these dental problems.
How Can You Help Your Autistic Child?
There are different ways you can help your autistic child to ensure they feel comfortable and safe during dental visits. As a parent, you want to create a rapport with one autism-friendly dentist who specializes in treating kids with special needs. This will help eliminate any anxiety that comes with dealing with visiting multiple dental offices. Take these three steps to help your child overcome their fears and make the whole process much easier:
- Make the necessary preparations before the dental visit
- Be aware of your child’s sensitivities
- Know how best to handle your autistic child’s communication challenges
Preparing for the Dentist Visit
When it comes to preparing for a dentist visit, you need to be sure that the dental experts you’re visiting are able to handle the needs of your autistic child. Call them in advance to discuss your child’s dental requirements and their policies. Unlike other kids, parents need to understand the importance of preparing ahead of time before scheduling any visit with a dentist for an autistic child in Reno.
Get to know whether the dentist’s office allows you to be present during dental examinations, whether or not you can schedule appointments when your child is best prepared and likely to cooperate, and whether you can have access to the pediatric dentist and staff members with each visit for the sake of your child’s comfort. Make sure they’re also well trained and equipped to handle kids with autistic children.
To make sure that your autistic kid is able to consistently brush their teeth daily and maintain proper oral hygiene, consider working with a licensed professional or occupational therapist. The key is making it more fun and exciting. Be positive when bringing up details about dental visits, and keep it as simple as possible to avoid creating anxiety. You can also schedule a pre-visit with a dentist for an autistic child in Reno so your child can get used to the staff and help him or her grow accustomed to the environment and subsequent visits.
Understanding the Sensory Challenges that Kids with Autism Face
Kids diagnosed with autism often face varying sensory challenges. During dental visits, they may be exposed to various stimuli, like sounds, smells, lights, and tastes. That’s why understanding your autistic child’s sensitivities both at home and in new environments is vital to determining which coping strategies should be used. Luckily, autism-friendly dentists are well-trained and prepared to handle such challenges.
However, it’s your responsibility as a parent to share the sensory challenges you’re aware of with your child prior to the first appointment. By doing so, you can work hand-in-hand with the staff to ensure successful dental visits. For instance, most autistic kids don’t love sudden movements, especially being moved backward, and can also be uncomfortable with the bright lights used during dental checkups. Consult your dentist or therapist on the best approaches.
The Importance of Communication During Dental Visits
Considering that some autistic kids have difficulty communicating, they can end up suffering from varying levels of anxiety or even frustration during dental visits. That’s why you need to choose a dentist for an autistic child in Reno who knows how to communicate in the most effective way. One proven and effective way of communicating with kids diagnosed with autism is “tell, show, do.” This approach helps dentists work easily with autistic kids, especially when it comes to letting them know what will happen next.
The dentist will then show the motion they’re going to perform or the instrument they’re going to use to the kid, and then do the action. Demonstrating the process to the child helps lower their anxiety, making the process much easier. When dealing with autistic kids, their comfort is a priority. That’s why breaking procedures or checkups into small manageable time periods in a process known as “chunking” is highly recommended.
The “modeling method,” where you bring along a friend, a sibling or relative to have them undergo a dental procedure as your autistic child watches is also recommended to help calm your kid’s nerves. Working closely with the staff will help your child cooperate. Encouraging your kid all through the process will help encourage good behavior. Remaining calm during the visits and using a soothing voice may also help autistic kids remain relaxed.
Dealing With Other Issues
Children suffering from autism may also experience a range of other health issues like seizures. An experienced dentist for autistic children in Reno will help develop a reliable treatment plan for these specific challenges so you can be prepared to handle any potential challenge that comes up during a dental visit. Sedation may sometimes be used on autistic patients, especially in cases where a child may be experiencing high levels of anxiety or discomfort. If you’re aware of any other conditions that your child is suffering, be sure to share with the dentist.
Dental visits for autistic children can be challenging for both parents and their kids. However, by partnering with an autism-friendly dentist, you can be assured of getting professional help. Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dentistry is a top provider of pediatric dental services, including special needs dentistry in Reno. We provide top-notch dental care and take the necessary steps to ensure that everything goes smoothly for you and your autistic child.
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