Special Needs Pediatric Dentist: Guide for Parents
Special needs parents are often dealing with multiple significant health needs and issues in their children. As a result, oral hygiene often slips to the back seat and causes other issues down the line. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s never too early to care about your child’s teeth.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the special needs pediatric dentists and how they can help you care for your special needs children’s oral hygiene.
What Is a Special Needs Pediatric Dentist?
A special needs pediatric dentist performs pediatric dentistry on patients with physical, mental, or behavioral disabilities. They have training to deal with the challenges and limitations of providing dental care for special needs children.
This includes an extra level of specialized training that goes above and beyond traditional dentist’s education in dental schools, including sedation dentistry, psychology, and behavioral studies, and communication with patients and caregivers.
Tips for Choosing a Pediatric Dentist for Your Child With Special Needs
Not every dentist has the ability and knowledge to provide treatment to special needs patients. Instead, special needs patients require special needs dentistry. Here are a few tips on choosing the right special needs dentist for your child:
Choose a Dentist That Makes Your Child Comfortable
Pediatric dentists like those at AZ Family & Kid’s Dental have specialized training to treat each child according to the special health care needs. We’d like to mention that Dr. Haught at AZ Family & Kid’s Dental has a great enthusiasm and talent for working with kids, including those with special needs, given that two of his children have autism, and his youngest has ADHD and other behavioral special needs. He enjoys assisting and educating children about their oral health.
Take a Tour of the Dental Office
It’s important to begin the first appointment by taking a tour of the dental office, introducing the dental team members, or discussing other strategies that will help your child relax and tolerate the exam. These strategies might include a dental examination in a non-dental chair, bringing a cherished toy from home, or selecting a private room.
It’s important to reinforce positive behavior; rewards such as going out for a favorite meal or getting some extra time on an iPad can help motivate your child.
Ask Your Community for Recommendations
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visiting a dentist by your child’s first birthday or as soon as the first tooth appears. The best possible approach for parents and caregivers of special needs children is to ask around their community for recommendations regarding pediatric dentistry and which dentist to schedule an appointment with.
Look Into the Dentist’s Experience
Once you’ve got the recommendations from your community and other parents and caregivers, it still pays to look into the dentist’s experience working with special needs children.
How to Prepare Your Child With Special Needs for Their First Dental Appointment
Instill a sense of positivity and excitement in your child, even weeks before the visit. Prepare them early by saying that you’ll be visiting an old friend together next week, and drive by the office to show them where you’ll be going. This will eliminate any fear of going through the door of a dental office.
Talk to Your Child About What to Expect
Talk to your child about the visit and what it will be like at the dentist’s office. You can even visit the dental specialists website, view photographs of other children smiling at the dental office, social media posts, or even videos showing what a typical dental visit looks like.
Consider Practicing Exam Procedures at Home
It’s always a good idea to discuss whether your child would benefit from practicing exam procedures at home, like using a dental mirror to check for irregularities. This can help you determine whether there’s a reason to visit the practice and help your child get accustomed to smaller dental procedures.
Additionally, brushing teeth or flossing together as a family is another way to teach your children, or even adolescents, about good oral health and the importance of proper oral hygiene.
Use the First Visit to Share Information With the Dentist
It’s important to inform your pediatric dentist about medical and behavioral insights about your child. By sharing information, you’re enabling the dental team to tailor their dental services according to your child’s needs and provide your child with an overall positive experience regarding dental visits and dental health.
Turn the Dental Visit into a Family Affair
AZ Family & Kid’s Dental provides comprehensive care for your whole family, by bringing siblings along to the appointment can have beneficial effects. That way, children with special needs feel like a visit to the dentist is a typical family activity. Furthermore, an older sibling can go first to set an example and then encourage your special needs child to take a full dental exam. Younger children usually look up to their older siblings, so use that to your advantage.
Facts About Special Needs Dentistry
Here are some notable facts about special needs patients, and special needs dentistry:
- Special needs patients are less likely to visit the dentist regularly and more likely to have missing teeth. Pediatric dentists, parents, caregivers, or any supportive organization must work together to improve accessibility to dental services and dental treatment. Tooth extractions should be the final solution.
- Despite being born with good oral health, some impairments interfere with the person’s ability to brush and floss on their own, which can cause dental health issues later in life. Additionally, some medications can lead to an increased risk of gum disease or even tooth decay.
- Some of the more common conditions that would require special care include down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, craniofacial conditions, and learning and development disabilities.
- Special needs pediatric dentists aren’t just for children. As a result of their extensive experience and expertise, they’re often the best possible choice for dental care for adults with special needs as well.
If you’re looking for a fantastic pediatric dentist, who can work with special needs children, contact AZ Family & Kid’s Dental. Dr. Haught and his associate dentists are Arizona licensed general dentists who have a true passion and talent working with children and special needs children in particular. Contact AZ Family & Kid’s Dental, and schedule an appointment today.