How do Special Needs kids go to the dentist?

March 29, 2024by admin0

Sleep Dentistry for Special Needs Children

When it comes to ensuring a successful and stress-free dental visit for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s all about understanding their world and making adjustments to fit into it rather than the other way around, says Dr Ellie Nadian, Kids Dental Specialist who provides special needs dentistry for children in Brisbane.

Special health care needs dentists in Brisbane
Brisbane Dentist for Children with Special Needs

Here’s how that’s typically done:

Preparation Techniques for Children with Special Needs

  • Pre-Visit Familiarisation: Visits are planned ahead of time to help the child become familiar with the environment. This can include social stories, which are short descriptions of what to expect, or even virtual tours of the clinic.
  • Visual Schedules: Showing the child a visual step-by-step of what will happen during their visit can help reduce anxiety by making the unknown known.

Communication Methods for Special Needs Children

  • Clear and Simple Language: Use simple, clear language or non-verbal cues to communicate what will happen step by step.
  • Use of Technology: Sometimes, apps designed to simulate dental visits or explain procedures can be helpful.
  • Social Stories: Social stories are a fantastic tool, especially in special needs dentistry, to help prepare children for new or potentially challenging experiences like visiting Brisbane Dental Sleep Clinic.

Imagine you’re telling a child a story where they’re the main character, and the story is about something they’re going to do or experience soon. In the context of visiting the dentist for children, the social story would detail what they can expect during their visit, step by step. This method is particularly effective for children with special needs, as it helps them mentally prepare for the situation, reducing anxiety and increasing predictability.

For example, a social story for a dental visit might start with explaining why dental health is important, followed by what happens when you arrive at the paediatric dentist’s office: “When we get to the dentist’s office, we’ll see a receptionist, who will say ‘hello’ and check us in.” It would then detail each step, like sitting in the waiting room, being called into the treatment room, meeting the dentist, and what various tools are for: “The dentist will use a small mirror to look at your teeth; this helps them see everywhere.”

The beauty of social stories is that they can be tailored to each child’s specific needs and concerns. For children who will undergo sleep dentistry using general anaesthesia, the social story could include explanations like: “Sometimes, the dentist needs you to sleep during your visit so they can take the best care of your teeth without it being uncomfortable for you. You’ll breathe in a special air that makes you fall asleep, and when you wake up, the dentist will have finished looking after your teeth.”

Here are some key points to keep in mind when creating a social story for a dental visit:

  1. Use Simple Language: Keep sentences short and clear.
  2. Be Positive: Focus on positive outcomes and experiences.
  3. Include Relevant Details: Tailor the story to the specific visit, especially if it involves procedures like general anaesthesia.
  4. Visual Aids: Incorporate pictures or illustrations to make the story more engaging and easier to understand.
  5. Review and Practice: Go over the social story multiple times before the visit, and encourage the child to ask questions.

Using social stories, you can help demystify the experience of visiting the dentist for special needs children, making it a less daunting and more positive experience. This approach not only supports the child’s mental preparation but also aids in smoother cooperation during the dental visit.


Environmental Modifications:

  • Low Sensory Environment: Many children with ASD are sensitive to sensory input so a low-stimulus environment can help. This means reduced noise, dimmed lights, and minimal clutter.
  • Comfort Items: Allowing the child to bring a comfort item, like a toy or blanket, can also make a big difference.
  • Stress-Reduction: Pure Dentistry is a dental clinic in Brisbane that provides sleep dentistry in Brisbane. They have a mesmerising marine fish tank in the reception area which is a great stress-reduction idea in a dental clinic.

Professional Training:

  • Specialised Training for Dental Staff: This is crucial. Paediatric Dentists and their teams often undergo specific training to understand the needs of children with ASD better. This can include learning how to communicate effectively, understanding behavioural cues, and knowing how to adapt procedures to reduce stress.
  • Sleep Dentistry Expertise: According to kids dentist Dr Soha Sharif who provides general anaesthesia for children in Brisbane, for kids who find dental visits particularly challenging, sleep dentistry under general anaesthesia can be an option. This approach, which is my specialty, involves performing dental procedures. At the same time, the child is asleep, making it stress-free for them and ensuring they can receive the care they need without the trauma or fear that might otherwise be associated.

All these strategies aim to create a kids dental visit that is not just bearable but positive for children with ASD. It’s about making sure the dental care needed doesn’t become a source of significant stress or trauma for the child or their family. Implementing these approaches requires a team effort involving the dental team, the child’s caregivers, and sometimes other healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible outcome.


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