As I read that February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, my thoughts turned back to Ryan’s first visit with the dentist. I definitely approached it with anxiety, if not trepidation. At 3, Ryan frequently had temper tantrums. The thought of introducing a new person, new location and a new procedure was troublesome. However, Erie has a pediatric dentist who specialized in working with children with special needs. As soon as I found that out, I was quick to schedule an initial introductory appointment.
Our first visit was “getting to know you” for both Ryan and the dentist. He was able to experience the routine of the office visit, have a cursory look at his mouth, receive his stickers for reinforcement and be off. On subsequent visits, the dentist or hygienist would explain what they were going to do, show him their tools and allow him to hold them and then complete the procedure. There was always lots of praise and the opportunity to play on a Game Boy upon completion.
As he grew older, his tolerance increased and for the most part our problems were minimal. However, I’ll never forget the visit that as our dentist was counting his teeth, Ryan bit his finger. I was mortified. As soon as we went home Ryan wrote a letter of apology to the dentist and asked if he could please come back. And he promised to never bite him again.
I share this personal story because I think many parents struggle with visits to the dentist. Fortunately, today there are many resources that I did not have 17 years ago. Autism Speaks has a dental guide. There is even a My Healthy Smile app for iPhone and iPad.
As you plan your visit I would suggest that you consider:
- What time of the day is your child at his/her best?
- What time of the day is the least active in the dentist office?
- Who can accompany you as a support?
- How familiar is the dentist with the specific disability of your child?
- What do you want the dentist to know about your child?
I’ve also summarized a number of articles that may assist a parent with their child’s dental health. Oral health is essential for daily healthy living for children and adults. It’s never too early or too late to start.