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Taking the child to a dentist can be a very stressful experience for both parents and child. Children with ASD or other developmental disabilities often have difficulties with sensory stimuli, and communication and increased levels of anxiety.
Anxiety may be caused by various reasons such as fear of unknown, sensory sensitivities and communication difficulties. Children usually display noncompliant, impulsive and restless behaviour when they are unable to communicate their feelings of anxiety while meeting new people, going to public places, sensitivity issues such as tactile defensiveness and auditory sensitiveness.
- Will visit be will a successful or an embarrassment?
- Number of aspects contributing to uncooperative behaviour and alleviated anxiety:
- Child's sensory sensitivities (Noise, tactile defensiveness, different odours)
- Lack of communication
- Increased levels of anxiety
Prepare child as early as possible:
develop a plan ahead of the visit. Inform the child about dental visits as early as possible. Telling him at last minute can lead to extreme anxiety resulting in a distressful situation. Although behavioural changes are expected, but knowing about check-up much before the visit will ease the anxiety. Communicate and educate him about the purpose of visit to release or reduce his anxiety levels. Use visual support such as a calendar to explain date of visit or days remaining for the check-up.
Talk to the Dentist:
- Tell the dentist as much as you can about the child’s sensory sensitivities and behavioural strategies’ that are successful. If this is child’s first visit to dental surgery, it is always better to ask for help from staff and communicating to the dentist about your child’s condition.
- Let dentist know about child’s sensory issues such as:
- The doctor may not approach or touch the child without informing him or taking permission to touch.
- The dentist may avoid if not essential or be cautious while entering into child’s intrapersonal space as it can be uncomfortable and stressing for him.
- The dentist may speak slowly as information processing takes time. He must ensure to use simple and short sentences while communicating.
- He may give answers to all questions asked by the child as not getting answers can quantify anxiety and mental tension.
- Lastly, the doctor should tell the child what he will be doing. Showing equipment to be used during check-up can help the child calm down and stay relaxed.
- Use headphones to block the background sounds.
- Use music for distraction and as calming strategy. I-pods, music
- The dentist can be requested to turn down the loud noises in the room.
- A child can wear a weighted vest, hat or carry a weighted bag pack to get heavy work activities done to get needed proprioceptive input.
- Carrying a weighted blanket, lap weight in the car can be used as an effective strategy after check up to calm down the anxious or agitated child.
- Use Theraband or resistive tubes to stretch the body after a check-up.
- Wobble cushion or wobble wedge can be added to a dental chair with dentist’s support if the child feels comfortable having it.
- Stress Balls: Always help’s child to reduce stress, anxiety in different settings.
- Massage hands and feet of child before going for an appointment.Carry Massage Rollers or massage sticks along with you.
- Hug more often.
- Vibrators can be very calming for oral cavity however should be used under Occupational Therapist's guidance.
- Doing heavy work activities for deep firm pressure will relax the child.
- Wall Pushes
- Chair Pushes
- Rolling Therapy ball over the whole body with firm pressure
- Star Jumps
- Specific Yoga poses
- Animal Walks (Frog walk, Crab walking)
Oral-B Stages 2 toothbrush can be used for children aged 2-4 years. It has a narrow head and easy-grip handle to hold properly. Different
characters are designed to encourage brushing.
Oral-B Stages 3 toothbrush can be used for children aged 5-7 years. The bristles target to hard-to-reach back teeth. It has grip handle for the hands still learning to brush.
Oral-B Stages 4 toothbrush are meant for children aged 8 years and above.
Electric Toothbrushes: They are much easier to manipulate around the teeth and encourages the child to brush their teeth. It should be used for children having oral hyposensitivity for awakening the oral sensory receptors. These toothbrushes help to control drooling, and provides massage and sweeping within the oral cavity.
Books & Apps:
I Know Why I Brush My Teeth (Sam's Science)