Preparing a Child with Autism for a Trip to the Dentist

Date: April 11, 2016

Seven Steps To Ensure a Successful Visit

By Jennifer Godwin, M.Ed., BCBA

Routine appointments may seem simple to some parents, but if you have a child with autism, a trip to the dentist can be stressful for both the child and family. By properly preparing for the visit, you can help alleviate stress and increase your chances of having a positive experience. Here are seven steps to consider before tackling that first dentist appointment.

  1. Ask other families to recommend a dentist in your area and try to select a dentist that has experience with children with autism. If your dentist would like training on autism, please contact your child’s supervisor to see if ChanceLight® Autism Services (ChanceLight®) can help.
  2. Prior to your child’s first visit, ask your dentist if you can come by for a quick office tour. It is always helpful to familiarize your child with new surroundings. The dentist or dental assistant can show your child the office, make staff introductions and conduct equipment demonstrations.
  3. During the office tour take photos and make a book to review with your child at home.
  4. Ask the dentist or dental assistant to explain all the steps of the visit so you can practice at home. For instance, most dental procedures require patients to lie on their back for a period of time with their mouths open. Practicing this at home may help your child understand the time required for the procedure.
  5. If your child uses a certain toothpaste, dental floss or mouthwash bring it to the appointment. Again, familiarity is key.
  6. If your child benefits from social stories or visual or written schedules, this will be helpful to develop these prior to the appointment. A great resource for social stories is The New Social Stories book by Carol Gray.
  7. Showing your child a video of a sibling or peer at the dentist may also help calm fears and stress.

ChanceLight® is always available to help our parents navigate everyday challenges. If you need assistance preparing your child for a trip to the dentist, please contact your program supervisor. We want to help ensure you and your child have a successful, stress-free appointment.