Tips for Successful Dental Work with Autism

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“Aren’t you excited?  You get to go to the dentist tomorrow!” I soared with a great big smile.

“YEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHH!” Declan yelled.  “I’m so excited!!”

If you would’ve told me this was my child 2 years ago, I would have told you 2 words.

“No way.”

Declan was actually preparing to go to our local surgery center for dental work.  Declan has a hard time at the dentist office and so they would need to have him be asleep to work on his mouth.  So, I needed to get him ready.

Dental History

Declan didn’t go to the dentist until he was 3 ½ years old as he would not let people in his space.  Having his hair cut was hard, I thought there was no way he was going to let anyone near his mouth.

And he didn’t.

We found a dentist that was autism friendly and A-Okay following Declan’s lead.  At his first visit, Declan would not sit in the dentist chair.  He sat on the floor, whimpering.  He finally agreed to show the hygienist how he brushed his own teeth.  If she neared his mouth, he squeezed his mouth and eyes shut tight, as if he had just eaten a tart lemon.  When the dentist finally came in for the exam, Declan ran into the corner and started to scream.

“Well, I can do a quick visual inspection of his teeth as he is screaming and see there are no cavities.  So, that’s good!”  The dentist said, then wished us well and told us to come back in 6 months.

6 months later, the hygienist asked me the best question.

“What worked last time?”

And we worked off that.  A year and a half later, Declan was finally sitting in the chair for the first time.  He let the hygienist brush his teeth, and he let the dentist do an exam.  They saw some black holes and knew he needed some dental work done.  And with children like Declan, they make sure they are asleep first.

 

So, there we were.  One day away from sending him for dental work while he would be asleep.  And he was SO EXCITED.

How did I pull that 0ff?  Here’s what I did.

Preparing for Dental Work

I worked off our last visit – with a VISUAL

We had a series of visits that Declan allowed a bit more from the dentist.  He had finally reached the dentist chair and allowed a dental exam.  I took his picture during this success and gave him one.  We talked about how awesome that visit was, how much fun it was and then the dentist gave him a toy reward after!  He loved that visit to the dentist, he loved his picture and he couldn’t wait to do it again!

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Social Story

For every visit to the dentist we did a social story.  “Declan is going to go in to a dentist room with mommy.  The hygienist is going to ask you to sit in the chair.  She is going to be wearing rubber gloves and glasses.  There will be a light overhead.  She will look in your mouth….”  On and on the story, went.

But going to the surgery center would be different.

I learned the process of what would happen while he was there.  And started the new social story.  “Declan will go into a room.  He will get to watch whatever TV he wants.  He will put on new clothes and drink a special juice.  Then they will put a special mask on Declan and it will smell funny…”

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The Specials!

A special trip gets the specials to come with!  A couple special Spiderman toys, a troll doll and a kindle.  Everything got to sit with him on his bed during the special trip.

 

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Declan did well.  He made it through the procedure, and had his teeth fixed.  He was sluggish for a bit, but returned to his high-energy self in no time.  When the dentist felt Declan would experience some aches and pains, Declan did not (although he is not one to feel too much pain).

He said he did not want to go back to THAT dentist for a while.  But was super excited to meet with HIS dentist again!  So that is definitely a super plus!

My favorite part, though.  His first words when he started to come to, spoken in a hoarse, groggy small voice:

“Tooooy  Stooooore…..”

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6 thoughts on “Tips for Successful Dental Work with Autism

  1. Be thankful he doesn’t have Williamson Syndrom! Or getting his hair cut, teeth worked on, and about everything else is extremely painful for them. Knew a little boy that was cursed with the disease. Life expecancy placed him long dead by now, but he is still going strong!

    Getting your son to conquor the dentist was truely brilliant. I had to be put to sleep to get my wisdom teeth removed because our family dentist preferred to work without pain killers! Thankfully only had one single small cavity while still living at home. After that cavity was filled he discovered I would need my wisdom teeth taken out. Refused to let him do it. Wanted to sleep through it!

    1. Yes, Williamson Syndrome sounds really awful. I am definitely thankful. Glad he is still alive and well. Thank you! Way to stay cavity free! Yes, I don’t blame you. The wisdom teeth are painful coming out!

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