A focus on the health of people with autism and the support they may need with everyday things like visiting a doctor or dentist. In this article we focus on going to the dentist.

There are many different reasons that can cause a visit to the dentist to be a stressful experience for someone who has autism.

It could be a sensory one.

It could be a lack of understanding about what is happening to them.

It could be an issue with the invasion of their personal space.

Whatever the issue there are a number of things that can be done to ease the stress.

Sensory Issues – Sensory issues are probably one of the main triggers of anxiety when visiting the dentist for someone with autism. The obvious areas will be auditory and tactile. Mouths are very sensitive and even more so for someone who has Autism. Someone putting a cold instrument into their mouth could be very painful. The noise of drills and other equipment could also be a problem.

It is important to also think about things like the appearance of the dentist. For example do they have facial hair? What colour hair do they have? Are they male or female? All of these things can have an adverse effect.

Lack of Understanding – Some people won’t understand why they are in front of a stranger wearing a white coat who is poking around their mouth with strange implements. They won’t understand why they are lying in a chair with a bright light in their face. It is important to try to explain to them why all of this is happening and what it will mean for their health.

Invasion of Space – Dentists are among the few people who we allow into our personal space. Most of us find this uncomfortable but we understand why it has to be done. For someone with Autism it could cause a lot of distress. There are several thing that you could do to prepare for the appointment but the individual needs of each person need to be taken into account. There isn’t a one fit suits all.

Preparing for the Visit to the Dentist

In most cases, even though it may cause a behaviour change pattern,  it is best to tell the person well in advance that they will be visiting the dentist.

Visual supports are sometimes a good idea. (A calendar which clarifies when the visit is going to take place could help.)

It might help to visit the dentist prior to the appointment.

It is very important to make the dentist and their team aware of the person’s individual needs.

You could request a double booking to ensure the appointment isn’t rushed.

Allowing a blocker to be taken into the surgery such as a device they can listen to music on or another form of comforter could help distract the person visiting the dentist.

The worst case scenario could be considering sedation. It may sound drastic but could be necessary to avoid unnecessary stress.

We hope you found this article helpful. Keep an eye out for more similar stories during this month.

 

 

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