Visiting the dentist doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience for your autistic child.
By Ron Sandison
One of the worst sensory experiences for me as a child was the visit to the dentist. I couldn’t stand the sounds of the drills or the dental scaler pick scratching away plaque. These sounds felt like an explosive ringing in my ear and caused me to have meltdowns and severe headaches. The sensation of the drill and dental scaler pick against my sensitive teeth and gums caused me to feel great discomfort—I felt like I was coming out of my skin. Not to mention the bright lights shining above. I also hated the taste of the green dry fluoride toothpaste applied during the cleaning. Unlike most children, because of my autism I continued to taste the fluoride for the next four days.
Everything changed when we switched to a new dentist – Dr. Matlock. His dental office contained an amazing mounted fish collection (over 45 specimens) including a twelve-hundred-pound Atlantic blue marlin with a razor sharp bill and a five foot Mississippi catfish. I looked forward to the trip to the dentist to see Dr. Matlock’s latest Monster catch. He also switched from the dry green fluoride to one that didn’t affect my taste buds. Dr. Matlock used a quieter drill and when removing plaque with the scaler pick was gentle on my gums. He turn down the bright shining lights and told me what to expect.
Four tips I give to parents are:
1. Find a dentist who works well with children.
2. Find a dentist who is understanding of sensory issues and autism.
3. Take pictures of the dentist office and the procedure he or she will have and create a social story. Editor’s note: There are also videos of visiting the dentist that are helpful.
4. And most importantly, check in with your child and ask if the toothpaste, lighting, or dentist tools affects his or her sensory issues.
Parents who follow these simple guidelines will make the dentist visit a more pleasant experience for a child who has sensory issues or autism.
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.
He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org