Going to the dentist can be stressful at any age. Our mouths can be sensitive, and sometimes cleaning gums and teeth can be uncomfortable. All of this can be a little scary, but it’s important to know the facts so we know what to expect. Dentist visits can be worrisome for adults, but even more so for children with special needs who may feel overwhelmed when sitting in the dentist chair. That’s why it’s important to have a plan.
February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and to honor it The Phoenix Center hosted Dr. Mike from The Tootharium on February 8th for dental screenings. Big smiles were had by all!
As you plan your own trip to the dentist with your child, take a look at our guide to help make it as stress-free as possible.
Let your child know about the dentist date far in advance and talk them through what they can expect. Create a social story about going to the dentist: note the driving to the office, checking in at reception, walking into the office and sitting in the waiting area, meeting the dentist, getting your teeth cleaned, and then leaving. You can even provide an incentive by planning a preferred activity for after the visit (trip to the ice cream parlor, donut shop, etc.).
Put the dentist date on the calendar at least a month in advance so your child can anticipate its arrival. We recommend creating an anticipatory/activity schedule that includes all of the steps involved with visiting the dentist. Reviewing the schedule several times before your visit will help to ensure a successful experience.
Practice at Home
You might want to act out what will happen at the appointment with your child. Practicing sitting in a reclining chair, opening your mouth wide and saying “ahhh,” holding up a mirror and counting your child’s teeth, are some things you can do to help prepare your child for what might happen during their appointment.
Drive by Before the Visit
Your child may feel more comfortable seeing the doctor’s office in advance of their check up. Drive by the dentist office, and if you have time stop in so your child can see the space and understand it is a safe place to go. You might even get to meet the dentist in advance, giving your child a chance to ask questions.
Validate Your Child’s Experience
After the visit, be sure to check in with your child and see how they felt about the experience. Listen to what your child has to say, talk through any fears they may have had, and reassure them that visiting the dentist is an important part of keeping your body healthy.