Dentists who treat special needs dental patients work closely with their patients that have autism to create a dental experience that meets unique needs and creates a comfortable environment for them. Because autism spectrum disorder can reflect a variety of different levels of autism, it’s important that each patient’s parent or care-giver let the dental office know what methods of routine or communication work best for the needs of the patient.
Some of the primary things that dentists implement during visits with these patients are the same for anyone that has autism. First of all, they allow those patients to schedule all of their appointments at a time that fits best with their personal routine. Many autistic patients can be thrown off by change in routine, so we want to tailor appointment times to help minimize routine disruption.
After the patient is escorted back, the office will do their best to minimize extra noises from equipment. Noise-canceling headphones may be appropriate for patients that do not mind wearing them. Wearing a lead apron during the treatment can also help create a sense of security and warmth, helping the patient stays seated for the time that is needed. If the patient has a weighted blanket, vest, or lap pad that they are already using, they may want to bring it to use instead of the lead apron, since it is more familiar to them.
Communication can be different for these patients as well, so it helps dental professionals to hear from the parent or caregiver about what methods work best. “First and then” photo cards can help explain to non-verbal or visual patients better about the care that is being performed that day.
In-office or hospital sedation are also great choices for any patient, including those with autism, that have anxiety about care or are unable to sit through a typical treatment visit. Most sedation appointments allow the dentist to complete all treatment during a single appointment.
Posted on behalf of David Kurtzman
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