Autism at the Dentist: Treating Your Special Needs Child

Smile Generation®-trusted dentist Dr. Jacob Dent of Sugar Land Modern Dentistry and Orthodontics explains how a trip to the dentist can be a great experience for patients with special needs on the autism spectrum.

Where can I find a dentist that can treat my special needs child?

Smile Generation®-trusted dentists know the facts, and realize that there are many families in need of a great dentist for their special needs child. You can find a trustworthy dentist that will put the needs of your autistic child first at

My own son is autistic, and I realize the inherent difficulties that can arise when your child is exposed to unfamiliar, and often intimidating situations. These young patients can be non-verbal, non-compliant, have severe stimulation issues, mild to severe behavioral issues, and delays with fine motor skills that do not allow them to practice proper oral hygiene at home. However, being able to successfully treat and help these children and alleviate some of your parental concerns is an experience many of us dentists find extremely humbling and gratifying.

In March 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published findings that 1 in 68 children is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. This is a 62 percent increase in the past 10 years, and boys are almost 3x more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Autistic children as dental patients present both rewards and challenges for their dentists.

This image appears courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

How can you prepare your autistic child to have a successful dental visit?

It is key that the dentist be made aware of how best to approach and treat any special needs patient that goes to see him/her. This information can be obtained through a simple patient questionnaire designed specifically for patients with special needs. The content of this document includes health histories, current medicines, home care routines, a patient’s ability to cope with certain procedures performed during an initial dental visit and any concerns the family may have. If a dentist does not have such a questionnaire available, it would be wise for any parent to create such a document to provide the dentist. Every little bit of knowledge helps create a better experience!

Sometimes, a fist-time visit to the dentist may be limited to a simple walk through of the dental office. Parents should try setting up regular dental visits with increasing stimuli, interactions and experiences, thus helping their autistic child adjust to the often intimidating dental environment at their own pace. This is important, as autistic children tend to do better around a structured schedule.

A special needs child should also try to take his or her time getting to know the dentist and establishing a comfortable rapport, which is needed to help build trust. Regular dental visits are also the best opportunity for parents to discuss with the dentist any of their concerns or fears. We dentists realize that the patient’s parents are the child’s biggest advocates; we will learn much by listening to you!

What should you expect during your autistic child’s dental visit?

The dentist will attempt to complete a full dental exam up to the level that the special needs patient will allow. Sometimes, this may mean just a simple visual exam. Other procedures like Digital X-rays, fillings and even a basic dental cleaning may have to be done with the addition of sedation if the special needs patient requires it.

Once the dentist is able to perform a comprehensive evaluation, he/she will work with you to establish a home care routine for your child. This is significant, as special needs patients can be more prone to dental decay because of home care and diet difficulties. Your full participation as parents helps to build a foundation for your child’s healthy, happy smile for life!

Why pick a Smile Generation-trusted dentist to care for your autistic child?

As John Maxwell wisely said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I know from experience that treating autistic children requires patience and understanding. One of the hardest challenges for families dealing with autism is finding a dentist who understands their child’s needs and their own concerns and fears. Smile Generation-trusted dentists are trained to be an advocate for children with special needs. We know your child means the world to you, and we’ll do our best to treat your child as if he/she is one of our very own!

Search for a dentist you can trust to care for your special needs autistic child at