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How to Find the Proper Dentist for Your Loved One with Autism

Author: Dr. Greg Grillo ( (May 2019)

You probably remember your first time going to the dentist and hearing the noise of various drills and tools. This can be an overwhelming experience for anybody, and these fears can be heightened for patients with special needs. As a dentist who’s been practicing for more than 17 years, I know how real these anxieties can be, but before you head to the dentist it’s important to find the right one. I’ve helped many families find the right dentist and have written a list of how you can begin your search.

Ask plenty of questions

As you’re searching for the right dentist for your loved one with special needs, it’s important to ask a lot of questions. You want to find someone who is the perfect fit and this is the only way you’ll know. Some questions to ask prospective dentists are:

  1. Are you comfortable working with a patient with additional needs? 

The dentist you choose should be comfortable caring for patients that have additional needs. If the patient is a child, start by talking to pediatric dentists in your area. Pediatric dentists have 2-3 years of extra schooling and will be able to accommodate better for their visit.

  1. What experience do you have working with patients with special needs?

While speaking to a potential dentist, ask them if they’ve had experience working with patients who have special needs. Ask what their experience was like, and listen for specific examples of how they worked with someone with special needs. Dentists with previous experience will have more knowledge overall of what it’s like providing care to a patient with additional needs. They will naturally be more comfortable working with your loved one.

  1. Can you make any special accommodations during the appointment?

Each patient is unique in their needs and you want to make sure those needs can be met, whatever they may be. Some common accommodations are having specific toothpaste flavors used, reducing waiting room times, and having the dental chair remain in the same position the entire visit. These may seem small but can make all the difference in assuring the comfort of the patient.

These are just a few questions to get you started but be sure to ask any question that’s on your mind. No question is a bad one and you will feel more confident choosing a dentist who can answer any and all questions.

Use referral services

There are quite a few referral services available to you to find recommendations for dentists in your area. A quick google search will be able to lead you to local dental offices as well as other online resources that can help you find the type of care you are looking for.

Another great way to find recommendations for special needs dentists is by talking to your primary healthcare provider. They are a great source for finding the right dental care for your loved one. Friends or other family members that have seen a special needs dentist will be able to provide you with insight as well.

Do not give up

The most important thing to remember when finding the perfect dentist for your loved one with special needs is to never give up. If you’re struggling to find the right dentist, keep searching. There is one out there for you and your loved one. It can be a trial and error process and that’s okay. Embrace the learning experience with you and your loved one and make going to the dentist a great experience.  Keep pushing until you find someone who is just right. Going to the dentist should be a positive experience, not one that’s dreaded. Always keep your loved one’s needs in mind when searching for a dentist and the right one will come along in no time.

Choosing a dentist is an important decision you’ll make for your loved one with autism.  You’ll want to ask the right questions and search for clear answers so you can make informed choices. Use your instincts and choose a dentist who feels right. Use health care providers, friends, and family members to find recommendations and never give up on your search.