Finding a good pediatric dentist takes research for any child, but when you’re looking for a dentist for a special needs child, that decision is even more important. Not every dental practice has the experience, skill, and knowledge to work with special needs children, but it can be crucial for both you and your child to find a good fit.
5 Tips for Selecting a Pediatric Dentist for you Special Needs Child
When searching, you can take some steps to find a good fit. Finding the right dentist for a special needs child will increase your chances of success—and helps sets your child up for success.
Step 1: Talk to your community
Not only can you ask friends and family about good pediatric dentists for special needs children, but other families dealing with similar challenges, local special needs programs, and community-based resources. Once you have some names, you can narrow down the field further or prioritize choices by doing some online research. Read reviews and websites, and gather as much information beforehand as possible.
Step 2: Interview potential dentists
A good pediatric dentist will be happy to talk with future clients. During you conversation, ask some questions:
- How do you handle sensory issues?
- Is your practice confident in handling special needs children? Why?
- Are parents allowed to be present during exams?
- Are you flexible with appointments so my child can be there when they are at their best?
- How do you maintain consistency for special needs children?
Step 3: Address any Potential Issues
Children with special needs may have very specific issues. Talk to your prospective dentist about what those issues may be. For example, many autistic children have sensory challenges. They may not like certain movements or parts of their bodies being touched or moved in a certain way. A dentist working with special needs children will benefit from having as much information as possible
Step 4: Build Trust with Easier Visits First
If possible, work your way up to more intensive dental visits. Have a few quick and easy visits where trust is built between your child and the dentist. It will also allow your child to get used to the setting and what happens there.
Step 5: Seek Communication Skills
A dentist for a special needs child should have excellent communication skills. They will signal what they are about to do and communicate it effectively. They may:
- Explain what they are about to do before they do it
- Let your child touch a tool or show an action beforehand
- Follow up with performing the action they’ve explained
Preparing for Your Dental Visit
There are things you can do at home or at your occupational therapist’s before a dental visit. They include:
- Work with them to put their hands on their stomach and their feet out straight
- Teach them to open their mouth wide and hold it open
- Count every tooth in their mouth with them
- Practice with keeping straw in their mouth
- Sit in a reclining chair
- Clean with a power toothbrush
- Introduce them to dental instruments (you can buy things like flashlights, mirrors and other items at the drugstore)
By doing your research, asking the right questions, and preparing, you can increase your chances of finding the ideal dentist for your special needs child and make the experience successful.