Finding a dentist that understands the needs of any child is important, but especially important when the child is special needs. Every parent knows the best ways to minimize cavities is to cut the sweets, but sticky treats; such as fruit snacks and even raisins, can wreak havoc on a toddlers teeth. Depending upon your water source, fluoride tablets or liquid may be a good way to supplement non-fluoridated water (such as private well water or bottled water) as prescribed by a pediatrician or pediatric dentist. The good old brushing 2 x’s a day is also important and following nightly with a fluoride rinse can only help. The biggest concern is how to find the best fit for dentist with a special needs child. The following are some tips:
1. Talk to other parents of special needs children. They have done some of the leg work and may have insight on a dentist with sensitivity for the unique needs of children. At best, you could divide and conquer an intimidating list of dentists in the area.
2. Talk with community services or special needs educators. They have met these questions before and have good connections to families with special needs children and community resources available.
3. Talk with the dentist offices. Ask the receptionist bluntly, “Do you have special needs children as clients currently”. Their response is a big indicator to the tone of the office and how they will address your needs. When I researched a potential office I asked the receptionist this question and she retorted “yes, we deal with them all the time”. This was not reassuring to me, because my child (and special needs children in general) is NOT them. I reluctantly met with the dentist who reaffirmed my first instinct and I left the office.
4. Meet with the dentist and get a feel for them prior to any procedures. The child and parent must feel comfortable before the examination or drilling begins. Special needs children do take more time and patience to be eased into a relationship, and a dentist/patient relationship is no different.
Understand that taking the time to find the best fit for your child is important because this relationship will last into adulthood and is the basis for your child’s future feelings about dental health. Finding a dentist that respects the needs of your child and appreciates the importance of going at the child’s pace for treatments is the best way to establish and maintain positive dental health and positive sentiment about the dentist.