The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s, and this year, Alameda Pediatric Dentistry wants to help get the word out. Dental health is an important component of overall health, and according to the National Museum of Dentistry, children with special needs are twice as likely to have unmet oral health care needs than their peers without special needs.
“It would be great to reach out to these kids since they often don’t get care due to insurance coverage and the inability for general practices to accommodate them,” Dr. MyLinh Ngo says. “We don’t see a huge number of special needs kids, even though we are equipped to and trained for them.”
One in 88 U.S. children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. If your child is one of them, remember to be patient and work with your child every day, using plenty of repetition and assistance to enforce good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing.
Alameda and Pleasanton Pediatric Dentistry staff are specially trained to give autistic and other special needs kids the extra attention and understanding they need. As you prepare to find the right dental team for a special needs child, the National Museum of Dentistry recommends the following:
Speak to the dentist beforehand and share your concerns. Ask any questions you may have, and take the opportunity to explain any oral habits or behaviors your child may have. Schedule a pre-visit with your child. This will give him or her the chance to get comfortable with the team before the first check-up. Schedule your appointment with your child’s routine in mind. Will mornings work best? Make sure to book that time slot. View photos together. Alameda Pediatric Dentistry has several photos of our office posted on the website. Seeing the environment will help your child prepare for what to expect and feel more comfortable come appointment time. As you look at the photos of the waiting room and office, discuss what happens at the dentist, including details about who goes to the dentist, checking in with the receptionist, reading together in the waiting room, and leaning back on the big chair. “My Visit to the Dentist Social Story,” available on Healthy Smiles for Autism’s best practices guide to oral health care for children with autism spectrum disorder, is a great resource for parents, complete with pictures showing what happens next, from putting on the bib to feeling the dentist’s tools in the mouth as she checks your child’s teeth.
Other ideas include role playing a visit to the dentist with your child, turning your living room into an exam room and holding a flashlight over your child’s head as your child practices opening wide. Make the pretend visit fun! If you are another family member have a dental visit scheduled for the near future, bring your child with you so they can see for themselves how easy it is.