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By Dr. Greg GrilloAs a dentist that works with special needs patients, I have personally seen how difficult a dental visit can be. However, with experience and cooperation with parents and guardians, I have also discovered how important preparation is for a special needs child to have the best dental visit possible.
When speaking to parents about their loved ones, there are some common elements that contribute to success at the dentist’s office. Good oral health and hygiene are essential to the well-being and success of any child and will pay dividends at the dentist office. I also suggest planned activity training - it has shown to be an effective means to prepare for an activity and will encourage good behavior. Another key is to find the right dentist; one that is compassionate and competent, one that has experience working with children with Autism or Down Syndrome.
What Is the Temperament of the Dentist?
Finding the right temperament in the dentist is because you seek a practitioner who specializes in working wiht special needs children. Certified dentists have spent an additional 3 years learning how to properly care for your loved one. If you are unable to find a special needs dentist, ask your friends, ask your dentist, call around. Find someone that is receptive to treating your loved one. Finding someone that understands your child’s needs, establishes a good rapport, and is patient and receptive will make the experience more beneficial as well as more pleasant. Whether you find a special needs dentist or not, you are going to want to communicate with your dentist what needs your loved one has, and what to expect.
Applying “planned activity training” (PAT) to prepare your child for the hardship of the dentist will be helpful. Incorporating this approach broadly well before seeing the dentist will make the dentist seem less startling and uncomfortable. PAT is a way to communicate with your loved one what exactly they can expect. I encourage you to do research on this technique.
Practice Through Play at Home
Start by preparing the child mentally and physically. For especially difficult settings make sure they are well-fed, have had adequate sleep and have everything they need. Bring something pleasant to occupy them during downtime. Explain the activity and the rules of behavior for that activity. Without being deceitful, try to exclude or diminish the unsavory elements of going to the dentist. If the opportunity is there, perhaps allow your loved one to see you having your teeth cleaned so they will be more comfortable and understand that it is not a punishment, but something even you must do. Explain rewards they may expect for good behavior and try to give choices whenever possible to allow the child to have some degree of investment in the activity. For the dental visit, highlight the fact they could choose the flavor of their toothpaste perhaps. Applying this approach seems to make the experience more pleasant for everyone.
If your loved one doesn’t already, establish routine brushing, flossing and the use of mouthwash as well. If your loved one has issues with these, do not force them, rather, consider teaching by example or incorporating positive reinforcement. Make dental hygiene a fun bonding experience. Make sure to comment on the benefits of brushing to protect their beautiful smile. Let them choose a flavor of mouthwash, toothpaste, and floss. Maybe play a favorite song of theirs to make it a more joyful activity and to cue when they have brushed long enough (a song around 2 mins). Make a fun activity out of oral hygiene and make that the routine. If they do not engage themselves, make yourself a visible and continual example and they are likely to join in. Once they begin to practice a good routine make sure you continue to reinforce their adherence to that routine, keep it fun and never diminish the accomplishment of maintaining a healthy mouth.
A happy child is a healthy child. Do not neglect or diminish the importance that oral health plays in the overall happiness of your loved one. With a proactive attitude, some effort and the right dentist, your child can benefit from a dental visit without a struggle.
For further information regarding dentistry for autistic patients, check out
For downs syndrome,
Dr. Greg spent graduated with honors from the School of Dentistry at the University of Washington. He joined the United States Navy and served for 4 years and then returned home to join the practice of his farther Dr. Jerry Grillo. Dr Greg enjoys working as a dentist, writing about dentistry and spending quality time with his family.
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Have you ever noticed how some people don't appear as bothered by stress and worry compared to other adults? These people seem to handle stressors that would cause others to have health issues. Ever wonder why this is?
Your personality plays a significant role in the way that you cope with stress each day. Reactions to stress are partially in our nature and partly learned throughout different experiences. How much pressure can you experience before stress symptoms appear and then remain consistent every day?
Some people have better resilience or a more robust shell. They defend against stress despite having their share of stress-inducing situations. However, even the more robust people will react once the pressure of stressors becomes too overwhelming. Eventually, if not monitored, repercussions of stress appear as:
- Mental health problems, like anxiety or depression.
- Cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke.
Chronic Stress Is Dangerous
How do you reduce the pressure and alleviate the stress?
There are different methods for reducing stress. Which one works best for you depends on your personality and also the situation at hand?
Exercises like meditation and relaxation techniques relieve stress well. The caveat is that the practices are only useful if done on a regular schedule.
Also, any vigorous activities or sports strengthen resilience. Whether you choose to relax or you choose to work out, your activity and results are dependant on your personality and your general approach to life.
While this is not an official assessment, the following sets of questions narrow down your general personality type. Then you can determine how you'll combat the stress and keep your mind and body balanced.
Perfectionists frequently create their own stress by being far too hard on themselves. It helps to practice having more realistic expectations and being more forgiving of mistakes and shortcomings. If you're a perfectionist, you'll probably find that relaxation does help you. Allow yourself the time off to ensure leisurely activities, and relaxation makes their way into your routine regularly.
If you are easily bored an dislike routines, then you might seek action and stimulus. Habits bore you. You enjoy changes and start new projects easily. However, you tend to leave plans unfinished. Completing details are tedious. You thrive on risk and enjoy adventures. You have unique ideas and love change and new people. Maintaining longer-term relationships is problematic.
- Little details are time wasters to you
- You're consistently full of unique and fresh ideas
- You find it difficult to maintain a steady relationship
Does your anxiety manifest in any of these ways:
- You feel that people take advantage of you.
- Disagreements upset you.
- You worry a lot about making changes, even if they are helpful to you.
- Sometimes, you don't feel confident, but feel vulnerable.
- You apologize too much.
- You find it hard to say no.
- You have a fear of being unliked, unpopular, and so on.
More often than not, the anxious type of personality possesses poor self-esteem. You take on a job that's not demanding enough and then grow bored and frustrated. You might end up investing time to avoid something else.
Relaxation and meditation can be helpful each of these personality groups. Also, suggestions to increase self-esteem are useful.
Some even suggest that a few hypnotherapy sessions can work wonders when it comes to building up things like self-confidence and the effects can end up being completely life-changing.
My ideal client is between 35 and 65. She may be married or divorced with one or two children. She is middle class, educated, and lives in a middle-to-upper class neighborhood.
She has always been financially independent. She owns her own business or would like to have a part-time business of her own. She is discerning with money, though will rarely spend it on herself unless it’s for a practical reason.
She makes lists and likes to be able to cross everything off her list, even though there is often more there than she can achieve. She compares her achievements to others as a way of gauging her worth. She often is overcritical of herself and lacks compassion for herself, though finds it for others.
She grew up in an environment where she had to take on responsibilities too early, which forced her to put aside her creative, spontaneous side and lose touch with her own needs and intuition. As a result, she is an over-responsible, independent, strong adult. She is dependable and tries to be there for others, whether it is in her best interest or not. She is overly loyal and often takes care of others because she feels like she should because nice people do that.
She follows the rules. She lives a lot in her own head and is afraid of making the wrong decision. She is a thinker and analyzer. As a result, she has lost touch with her own feelings and needs.
She has difficulty setting boundaries with others until circumstances become extreme. When she does set a boundary, she feels guilty and often softens the boundary or changes it to suit the other person. She says “yes” when she doesn’t want to, then feels resentful. She doesn’t have a good sense of self-worth and therefore has difficulty honoring herself.
She’s unaware of her own values and using them as a way of navigating life or making decisions. She makes decisions out of fear or guilt. Only when she feels she’s been pushed too far will she get angry and lash out or finally give herself what she wants.
She is a busy person who experiences free-floating anxiety during quiet moments. She tries to get out of these feelings by staying busy, eating, or distracting herself with Internet activities. She is afraid to feel “negative” feelings for fear they will lead to something bad or shut her down completely. She is knowledgeable about positive thinking and feels guilty or fearful if she isn't thinking constructively.
She has a spiritual reference (God, the Universe, Spirit, Higher Self) and may engage in a spiritual practice. She has trouble with meditation because her mind is constantly busy. She loves self-help books, psychology, and spirituality (especially relationship books, Law of Attraction, and codependency). She loves to read or learn about these things so she can fix her problems. When an issue arises, a book or self-help source soothes her. She feels in control of the problem.
She is afraid to let go of control. She has difficulty relaxing and will often need to eat, drink, or distract herself with Internet use to relax.
She is constantly thinking about the future and the next moment. She’d like to have more fun or nurturing activities, but can’t give herself permission or justify them. She often feels overwhelmed and drained. Her feelings seem to vacillate between anxious and depressed.
She can be found working on her computer either from home or at coffee shops, running errands, and taking care of the people in her life. She enjoys bookstores and self-growth classes. She has a creative side, though it is undeveloped and not given priority. She has a worldly cause she believes in that she may or may not be aware of yet. She enjoys people and has friends, but doesn’t make relationships a priority – this can be because of lack of time or lack of energy.
She has difficulty trusting or being intimate with men. She often attracts untrustworthy or needy men. (Or this could describe her relationship to a husband.)
Her greatest desire is to learn to love herself. She realizes she doesn’t treat herself well and wants to change. Yet she feels caught in shame or guilt when taking steps toward this.
She is tired of feeling anxious and depressed. She wants to feel better about herself and her relationships but does not know how, despite the self-help books.
She is attracted to my sense of self-acceptance, non-judgment, safety, optimism, and trust in myself and a Higher Power for my safety and future.
She is ready to work with me because she sees my story and wants the balance and security I’ve achieved within myself. She feels seen and safe.
I offer her a place to begin to get to know her own feelings and emotions without fear. I show her how to feel her feelings in a way that will allow, heal them, and lead her to hear her own Inner Voice. She feels encouraged to listen to and take action toward her own needs and self-care. She experiences more self-love, self-compassion, and self-trust.
She feels more settled in her body and is able to feel good about herself and her decisions. When she makes a mistake, she sees the growth and good without shame. Though life may present her challenges, she feels more confident in herself and in life to take care of her. She is able to be with others in a way that allows her to be real and unafraid. She is able to lovingly set boundaries. Her relationship with herself and others are healthier because she is different inside. She now honors herself and is able to present with others in a way that honors them.
New ideas and desires arise in her as a result. She is more in touch with her body, needs, and emotions. She knows more of what she needs and where her limits are. She knows herself and how to take care of herself under stress. She has the resources, tools, and knowledge to handle her life. She can hear own Inner Voice and feels empowered to take risks towards what she desires.