Preparing with Your Special Needs Child to Visit the Dentist

By Dr. Greg Grillo

As 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?

dentistFinding 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.

Establish Routines

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
https://www.emergencydentistsusa.com/autism-and-dental-care/

For downs syndrome,
https://www.emergencydentistsusa.com/down-syndrome-and-dental-care/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875813

https://www.oumedicine.com/docs/ad-pediatrics-workfiles/planned-activities-training-parent-handout-booklet.pdf?sfvrsn=2

https://adayinourshoes.com/find-special-needs-dentist-ask/

https://www.innovativepediatricdentistry.com/dental-tips-for-parents-of-special-needs-children/

http://deltadentalazblog.com/dentistry-for-special-needs-7-tips-for-making-dentist-visits-less-stressful/

 

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.

Engage The Heart–The Brain Changes

Engage The Heart--The Brain Changes

We engage through the heart, connecting the child with their family and world through the power of a loving healing relationship. This is the Open Heart approach. Over time, as organization and regulation increase, the brain reformats and gets it. Much research concludes…

1. The role of the primary caregiver to assist the child in developing self-regulation far outweighs the influence of genetics or temperament.

[ctt template="5" link="Ic6qs" via="yes" ]2. However, it is the interaction of attachment and temperament that forms the working model of relationship between child and parent and parent and child. @parent_coach[/ctt]

In this course, you’ll be learning how the energy-dampening effect to behaviorally challenged children is a relationship-based approach.

Either parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle, or others closely involved with the child can have the same positive impact on the child’s development, internal self-regulation, and the regulation of (emotion) affect.

Indeed, it does take a village to raise a child well. Through a relationship-based model, the caregiver facilitates what the child cannot, until the child is capable of accomplishing it by herself.

[ctt template="5" link="z5xfY" via="yes" ]The caregiver returns to the basics of an early parenting model when and where necessary to better meet their child’s needs through modeling, influencing, guiding, supporting, instructing, and monitoring the boundaries and expectations. I simply call this good parenting. @parent_coach[/ctt]

I loved my child before I ever saw her. I love my child still. I have a child with emotional and mental health problems. This is the child I love. This is the child I have. My daughter has the dubious distinction of being THE most discussed case history among therapists, behavioral assistants, and clinicians. One agency director informed me that she regularly uses my daughter’s case for training of her new case managers and therapists. It does not give a parent the warm fuzzies to hear repeatedly from mental health professionals, whom you look to for help, that your child’s case is the most difficult one they have ever seen.

These sentiments are my personal reflections.

They also match the experiences of some of the parents you will coach…parents, who struggle to move forward after facing the reality of one or more diagnoses like ADHD, Autism, Conduct disorder, Bipolar disorder. The effects on the family are the same. It triggers a parent’s worst nightmares.

[ctt template="5" link="XR801" via="yes" ]Concerns, fears, sleepless nights, and the search for answers begin. This is how a parent enters the world of mental health and special needs…a world where terminology is confusing and diagnoses sound like the unending combinations of an alphabet soup. @parent_coach[/ctt]

If care is not taken, a parent or teacher might begin to refer to the child by the labels of their diagnosis, and see in the child’s behaviors, both positive and negative, only symptoms of the same. As months or years of struggle pass, parents don’t differentiate which part of the behavior belongs to their child’s temperament, and which part is a symptom of the diagnosed condition.

Amid the onslaught of doctors, neurologists, medical tests, and therapists elucidating the deficits in their child’s development, parents easily lose sight of the child and concentrate on what they see most, the disorganized and dysregulated behavior.

The question that brings this home is simple: Which child do you see…one with special needs or one who is just plain special?

Become Trained and Certified in the Coaching Families With Special Needs Course

What Is Your Coaching Mission With Special Needs?

As a parent-family coach or coach for special needs families, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help parents in similar situations find clarity, hope, and greater functionality in their family. With your help and guidance, parents will

 

  1. find their center of gravity,
  2. push past their feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm,
  3. begin restoring regulation and resilience in their children with behavioral disorders through securing the child-parent relationship.

One agency director informed me that she regularly uses my daughter’s case for training of her new case managers and therapists. It does not give a parent the warm fuzzies to hear repeatedly from mental health professionals, whom you look to for help, that your child’s case is the most difficult one they have ever seen. [ctt template="5" link="cjUt1" via="yes" ]This is the child I have. This is the child I love. @parent_coach[/ctt] These sentiments are my personal reflections and a parent, a parenting coach, and a training professional. The sentiments also match the experiences of some of the parents you will coach…parents, who struggle to move forward after facing the reality of one or more diagnoses like ADHD, Autism, Conduct disorder, or Bipolar disorder. The effects on the family are the same. [ctt template="5" link="9Dqc5" via="yes" ]It triggers a parent’s worst nightmares. Concerns, fears, sleepless nights, and the search for answers begin. @parent_coach[/ctt] This is how a parent enters the world of mental health and special needs…a world where terminology is confusing and diagnoses sound like the unending combinations of an alphabet soup. If care is not taken, a parent or teacher might begin to refer to the child by the labels of their diagnosis, and see in the child’s behaviors, both positive and negative, only as symptoms of the same. As months or years of struggle pass, parents don’t differentiate which part of the behavior belongs to their child’s temperament, and which part is a symptom of the diagnosed condition. Amid the onslaught of doctors, neurologists, medical tests, and therapists elucidating the deficits in their child’s development, parents easily lose sight of the child and concentrate on what they see most, the disorganized and dysregulated behavior. The question that brings this home is simple:

Which child do you see…one with special needs or one who is just plain special?

Twice we prepared to send our young daughter  to long-term residential on the strong advice of doctors and psychiatric nurses working with our daughter. The first time she was four years old. The second time she was nearly seven.

Ultimately, we decided it was not something we could live with, nor did we believe it was in the best interest of our daughter.

It is your mission: to understand the unbelievable, heart-wrenching choices some parents face as part of everyday life. We believed we had tried everything to help change our daughter’s behavior. Nearing the edge of hope, we came to the realization that something had to give. It would either be our child, or us parents and we didn’t want it be either. However, this is not the end of the story…merely the beginning. Information from neuropsychology, trauma, attachment, and relationship, the same information you will learn in course, Coaching families with Special Needs,  We discovered choices and options that allowed us to regain personal and family balance and hope for the future. We changed and improved our parenting skills, and developed a positive healthy plan to parent our daughter. [ctt template="5" link="s01ji" via="yes" ]The information was a revelation that allowed a welcome return to my original parenting philosophy with new knowledge and understanding about raising children with love, compassion, empathy, and relationship. @parent_coach[/ctt]

  • Both negative and positive reactions, actions, and attitudes of caregivers significantly impact the child, and hinder or support the development of secure attachment.
  • Environment, temperament, trauma and stress, is relative to reactive behavior, and internal organization and regulation.
  • Parents can learn to manage, diminish, eliminate, and contain even the most severe behavior.

Finally, we had something to DO. We were no longer on the fringe of being powerless to help our daughter. We devoured and assimilated the information, because we had a lot to lose. We refused to cry uncle! We resolved to be committed! We did not hold back! We completely transformed our outlook, honed our philosophy, strategized our plan in every minute detail, and changed our lifestyle. It was not ever easy, but it was easier than what we had been doing and how we had been living for so long. Let me share who the unruly, dysregulated, and unattached little girl became. She became our mission possible.