How To Use The Free Autism Dentist Social Story ” I Can Go To The Dentist” With 10 Practical Tips

The Free Autism Dentist Social Story can be used to help your child prepare for their visit to the Dentist and for Dentists to use with their patients. Visiting the dentist can be a scary experience. There are many tools, people, lights, sounds and machines that can scare any child regardless if the child

has Autism. My own son Niam who is 14 and has Autism used to be petrified to go the Dentist. Today Niam is able to go to the Dentist without creating a fuss and leaves happy. This was not always the case.  I remember the days when we would drive up to the dentist office,  Niam would see the building and start crying. My husband Ravi, would have to literally hold him down while his teeth were being cleaned. I cringe when I remember the torture my son must have experienced.    The end result was we did not go to the dentist for years.  This is not a healthy alternative. A few years back we discovered a new dentist. She is amazing. She took things slowly , worked with me, our family and, today Niam LOVES going to the dentist.

I want to share with you some of the steps we did to create a safe environment. It is important to note, creating a great experience for your child to visit the Dentist requires co operation from both the Dentist, the Parents and the child. The areas I want to focus on are tips for preparation, sensory issues and communication for BOTH Dentists and Parents.

Preparation Tips To Visiting The Dentist:

  1. Download the Free Autism Dentist Social Story For Parents and Dentists:

Read the Free Autism Dentist Social Story to your child. Prepare your child for what they will see, experience and feel as you read the story to your child. Talk about what will happen and answer questions. Take the book with you and read each page before the next step will take place. It is important to prepare your child for the experience.

2. Arrange An Informal Visit To The Dentist

Call your dentist ahead of time and arrange a time for your child to visit the dentist office for an informal visit. This is an opportunity for your child to play in the waiting room, to meet the dentist, the dental hygienist to create a bond. Your child can walk around the office to familiarize themselves with the surroundings, sit on the chair and watch a  movie for a few minutes and just have fun. It is important for your child to leave on a happy note, to feel comfortable and loved. It is okay if your child requires more than one visit to create a bond and feel comfortable.

3.  Have Motivators Handy

Not everyone loves to use motivators but I must confess I am notorious for using motivators to seek desired behaviour from my son Niam.  Most dentists give a bag of dentist goodies after a check up consisting of toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouth wash, hardly a motivating incentive for Niam let alone any child. Talk to your dentist about having a bag of goodies for your child as a reward that will be motivating. You can prepare the bag of your child’s favourite items for the dentist to give as a reward after every step and/or every few steps are completed or at the end of the visit. How you choose to to implement a reward system will vary from child to child. There is nothing wrong for giving a reward for trying a step or tolerating a instrument (or anything sensory) for a few seconds. Remember it is about building the tiny steps towards the end goal.

I began my positive journey with Niam by providing the Dentist with a extremely motivating reward for Niam: a cinema ticket and a coupon for large french fries with cheese curd no gravy. If you must provide food I would create coupons with the food picture your child could collect throughout the visit to be redeemed afterwards.

Download one of our free Token Boards.

4.  Play Dentist Related Games

There are many games you can play with your child to prepare them for the big day. By playing different games, you can relieve some of the anxiety, help prepare your child for the visit and, to  create some fun around the experience.

a. Role Playing – Role play different situations.  The parent can be the dentist , the child can be the patient, lying down on the sofa, with the parent brushing their teeth.  Take this opportunity to introduce flossing and, attempt to floss your child’s teeth while you are playing the Dentist Game.  I bought plastic dentistry tools and used those to prod Niam’s mouth. It was a great way to help him overcome his anxiety , sensory issues and, to help him overcome his fears of the Dentist especially after all the negative experiences of the past. There are many different experiences you can role play with your child to prepare them for the visit.

b. Play Bingo – Sounds crazy but playing bingo can be a great fun way to work on receptive communication, expressive speech, introduce the child to items that will be found at the dentist office and, use the game to ask and answer questions. You can make your own bingo card with flashcards of various nouns and verbs.

Sensory Tips To Visiting The Dentist:

  1. Practice Brushing Teeth

    Oral hygene is very important for a healthy mouth, teeth and body. Download our free I Can Brush My Teeth Social Story. Practice brushing teeth is extremely important for success at the Dentist.  Ensure your child is brushing their teeth at least twice a day. Brushing teeth will help your child to tolerate the  taste of toothpaste, bristles in their mouth and, if they are using an electric toothbrush the sound. Niam uses an electric toothbrush. I   encourage him to gently clean his tongue , gums and his mouth with the electric toothbrush to help him overcome sensory issues. Niam rinses his mouth which  is good practice for the dentist.

  2. Practice Being Patient and Dentist

To prepare Niam for the dentist, I had him lie down on his bed. He opened his  mouth and I brushed his teeth. I timed how long he would tolerate  me brushing his teeth, eventually working my way up to 3 minutes.  Today Niam is able to tolerate a much longer time.  I gave Niam his phone and he listened to music to relax. This helped him overcome his sensory issues.  I  worked my way up to flossing  Niam’s teeth,  counting his teeth and, general touching in his mouth.

COMMUNICATION Tips To Visiting The Dentist:

  1.  Provide Accurate Information To Your Dentist

It is very important to share all information with your dentist. When sharing information, it is important to include all  medical history from communication, sensory issues, seizure activity, medications, swallowing issues, sensory issues   to likes and dislikes, and motivators. The more information you give, the more informed the dentist and their team will be to make the experience a great one. I had Niam fill out the free download  “All About Me Book” to give to the dentist. It worked out great. Niam had fun creating it, and could not wait to give his work of art to his new friend.  The Dentist  enthusiastically read it, asked Niam questions and, learned about him in fun way while creating a bond.

   2.  How To Communicate With Your Child

There are different ways to communicate. Explain to the dentist which is the most effective way to communicate with your child. If your dentist is receptive explain the different modes of communication. It may help another child.

  •  Sign Language. You may have to provide sign cards to assist the dentist or be present to be an interpreter.
  •  Augmentative Communication Device. Make sure you explain how it works and how your child uses it. Make sure it is within reach during the visit.
  • Speech – Simple Sentences, speaking slowly or using speech in combination with another form of communication.
  • Typing- Many children communicate via typing this could be  typing answers and typing questions.
  • Non -Verbal Communication – gesturing
  • Be an interpreter

       3. Interview The Prospective Dentist

If you are unsure about the Dentist or their team, interview them. If you are not satisfied look for another dentist. Ask family and friends for recommendations. It is important to find the right fit. It can make all the difference between a great experience or a terrible one.

During the interview process you may find a dentist you really like, they are receptive , want to learn , want to help but may not be very knowledgable. This is your chance to educate. Following are a few tips to help you identify dentists who may not be knowledgable  but require a few helpful tips to learn.

        a. Interacting with Persons with Disabilities

There are dentists who have experience and are knowledgable about individuals with disabilities. There are many dentists who lack experience but want to learn. It is important to ask questions to your dentist.

Some dentists may feel:

  •   Social Awkwardness: The dentist may not know how to act in front of individuals with disabilities.

TIPS to share with your dentist.

  •  Look at the individual in the eyes and, not talk to them as if they are not there or to the parent.
  • Do not assume the individual does not understand.
  • Do not assume the person feels sorry for themselves.
  • Do not make assumptions about what the individual can or cannot do.
  • Do not be afraid to assist the individual.
  • If you are not sure how to communicate or if there is an issue, do not be afraid to ask for assistance or clarification.

In conclusion, I know visiting the Dentist can be a struggle. Keep trying and remember a Healthy Mouth Is Very Important for your child’s body.  Good oral and dental hygiene can prevent tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, keep teeth intact when your child ages. An unhealthy mouth is also linked to other diseases. Thus, it is important to take and teach your child a holistic approach to health.

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2 thoughts on “How To Use The Free Autism Dentist Social Story ” I Can Go To The Dentist” With 10 Practical Tips

  • July 5, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    My special-needs child generally does not do well at healthcare appointments. Luckily he had an amazing preschool teacher who worked with me to help him practice dental stuff (brushing stuffed animals’ teeth, playing games about the dentist, singing songs about teeth, etc.). He did great at his first dental appointment.

    • July 22, 2017 at 1:25 am

      That is amazing! I hope you downloaded the social story. There are lots of other free healthcare social stories like going to the doctor, taking blood etc on

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