A child with special needs is a unique individual with their own fears and personal preferences.  Sometimes, a child with special needs may have a higher level of anxiety when it comes to visiting a doctor or a dentist. Professionals who work with children who have special needs should always approach with understanding and a calm demeanor. Most pediatric dentists are able to work with a child with special needs. However, it may still be helpful for parents to prepare for the experience in advance.

If you have a child with special needs, here are some questions to ask prior to their dental exam:

Is a practice appointment available?

Taking a child to the dental office for a practice appointment is sometimes helpful. The child can see the office, meet the staff, and look at the equipment before having anything done. This may reduce fear or worry prior to the actual examination appointment.

Are there any videos or books that may help before the visit?

Parents can search for resources online, but the dental staff may have some recommendations as well.

What forms of distraction are available during the dental exam?

Does the office have televisions, music, or toys to squeeze? May the child bring his own comfort item from home? A parent can discuss with dental staff the distraction techniques that work best for the child with special needs.

If needed, what is the usual plan/procedure for sedation?

Sometimes, high anxiety might mean a plan for sedation. There are various forms of sedation, and the dental staff should be able to explain the options for each unique child.

Are the office and equipment accessible?

If the child is in a wheelchair or has difficulty with mobility, staff members should be able to explain how the office is set up and how they will examine the child.

Does the staff have experience with other special needs patients?

A parent may ask if the dental practice has other patients with special needs. A staff with other special needs patients should know what to expect with various situations.

Does the staff have any specialized clinical training?

Most pediatric dentists receive professional training to treat children with special needs. This training can better prepare dental staff for interaction with the patient and teach them how to guide parents in strategies for successful at-home care.

Having a child with special needs can make even the standard dental procedures more difficult. Caring for a special needs child takes compassion and patience. If your child has special needs, call the dentist’s office to discuss your options and prepare for the visit.