April is Autism Awareness Month and we understand that it’s not always easy for patients on the spectrum to come into a dental office. To help you make the most of your appointments, here are 7 tips to make trips to the dentist easier for patients with autism.
#1 – Talk to Us.
When scheduling your patient’s appointment, let our staff know in advance that your patient is autistic. It’s also helpful for us if you let us know what they tolerate, what they are sensitive to, their communication abilities and any behaviors we should be aware of.
#2 – Pick The Best Time.
Is your patient more comfortable in the morning or afternoon? We have found that appointments are more successful when they are planned for the time of day that works best for the patient. We have also found that appointments scheduled for 8 a.m. or right after lunch often provide shorter wait times.
#3 – Comfort is Key.
We want our patients to feel comfortable, but that isn’t always easy. Exploring the operatory, tools, and learning about the procedure(s) are good ways to help keep nerves at bay. Ask your dentist to show your patient the tools that will be used during the procedure, and to explain what they are used for. This will help establish a clear understanding between your patient and your dentist before they start working.
#4 – Know Your Patient’s Sensitivities.
If your patient is sensitive to noise, it may help to tune out the office noise with headphones and your patient’s favorite music or an audiobook, or just use the headphones as earplugs. If bright lights are an issue, fret not! Our offices have sunglasses on hand to help protect patients’ eyes – and they do double duty by reducing the harshness of the overhead lights.
#5 – Medications Matter.
If your patient is taking any medications – over-the-counter or otherwise – it is important that you make sure to list all medications on your patient’s medical history form. This will help give your dentist the full picture and allow them to better stay on top of your oral health. This is especially important because medications can have a range of side effects, including dry mouth, which can put patients at an increased risk for decay.
#6 – Keep Appointments Short.
Some patients may want to combine treatments that are on the same side of the mouth to get through the work they need in fewer trips. But for patients with sensory sensitivities, it might be easier to break up appointments into manageable, bite-sized pieces to keep from getting overwhelmed in one go.
#7 – Be Consistent.
When rescheduling for future appointments, try to stay consistent. We do our best to make sure all of our patients see the same dentist throughout their years with us, and for patients with autism, that consistency can help cut down on some of the anxiety that surrounds their dental visits. Scheduling appointments for similar times and days of the week can help, also.
On another note, while we understand that any number of factors can cause anxiety surrounding dental visits, we believe that financing shouldn’t be one of them. To help cut down on your financial concerns and to make sure our patients have access to the quality care they deserve, we accept SoonerCare, and our Central OKC office also accepts SoonerCare for adults in the DDSD (Developmental Disability Services Division) program. In fact, all of our dentists at our Central OKC office are certified to treat patients with special needs.
No matter what our patients might face, we are here to help them. Oral care is important and necessary for everyone. By working together, we can make dental care easier for patients with a variety of needs.