Children with sensory processing disorder sometimes exhibit oral defensiveness. While you might have found ways to minimize your child's reactions at home, going to the dentist can sometimes feel like uncharted territory since you have less control over the environment. The good news is that family dentists understand the importance of providing children with positive experiences that promote better oral health over their lifetime. As you prepare for your child's dental appointment, use these tips to help with their oral defensiveness:
Schedule a Practice Visit
A visit to the dentist office is full of sensory experiences, and being familiar with these new sensations helps your child stay calm. When you call to schedule your child's appointment, ask if it is possible to come in first for a visit where your child can explore the environment and meet the staff. This allows your child to get used to things such as the sound of the instruments while giving your insight into how they might react during their actual exam.
Bring Comfort Objects
Dentists often recommend that parents bring items to their child's appointment that help them to stay comfortable. For example, your child may find that bringing a weighted blanket to cover themselves within the chair may help reduce their anxiety at having someone work on their mouth. If you forget one, some children find the weight of the protective x-ray drape to be soothing. Alternatively, you could ask the dentist if you can bring your child's favorite flavor of toothpaste if they have taste sensitivities.
Plan Shorter Appointments
For a child with oral defensiveness, it might be better to break up visits to only address specific aspects of their care. For instance, you may want to schedule your child's dental cleanings separately from their exam to limit the amount of sensory sensations that your child is exposed to during a visit. If you cannot break up a treatment, then ask the dentist to give your child frequent breaks such as waiting a few minutes to begin work again if your child exhibits a gag reflex.
Although going to the dentist poses a few challenges for a child with oral defensiveness, careful planning goes a long way toward ensuring that your child stays comfortable. Always let your child's dentist know about their special needs, and you can look forward to helping your child learn to love taking care of their oral health.