For a child who has autism or sensory issues, dental care can be a challenge. Not only can the sights, smells and sounds of a dental office be overwhelming, but oral hygiene at home can also be a struggle. Just like any other child, however, a child with sensory issues needs proper and persistent dental care. Fortunately, there are special ways to ease your child’s anxieties and overcome the “sensitive” task of caring for their growing smile.
Understanding Sensory Integration
If you have a child with a sensory processing disorder, you are probably familiar with the term “sensory integration.” This refers to how an individual uses his or her five senses to process external stimuli. First, you’ll need to understand whether your child is a sensory seeker or sensory avoider. For example, sensory seekers are soothed by certain sensory inputs so the act of brushing teeth can be a welcome experience if done correctly. Sensory avoiders, however, experience more of a challenge when it comes to oral health care. In these children, external stimuli are perceived as either painful or irritating. Dental visits for sensory avoiders can be quite traumatic. However, strategic tactics can be utilized to promote a positive experience.
Preparing for the Dentist
If you are concerned that your child may have anxiety about the dental office due to sensory issues, always let your dentist know ahead of time. The following tips can be helpful to provide a more comfortable visit:
- Tour of the office prior to dental appointment
- Discuss specific concerns/needs with dental staff
- Read your child a story or show them a visual chart about what happens at the dentist
- Encourage your child to ask questions
- Request extended time slot for appointment or private room
- Ask about special accommodations like sunglasses, noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets or sound machines
Dental Care at Home
If you have a “sensory seeker” child, tooth brushing may be an easy and calming routine each day. In such cases, stay consistent with how you do it and make sure to brush the full two minutes each session. For sensory avoiders, teeth brushing can be a dreaded battle in your household. The feeling, sound and taste can be irritating and overstimulating for such children. Unflavored toothpaste and non-powered toothbrushes are typically best.
At Georgia Orthodontics & Children’s Dentistry, we can help you care for your child’s teeth and gums despite their sensory issues. Call today to learn more!
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13075 Hwy 9, Suite 110
Milton, GA 30004
Phone: (770) 521-2100Mon – Fri: 8:30am – 5:00pm