ASD Dental Trials and Tribulations

Visiting the dentist is not fun for any of us. Let’s face it, having to hold your mouth open for people poke and prod around is extremely uncomfortable.  However, add to that an absolute fear of dentists and needles, and the anxiety is ten-fold.

Many children with ASD struggle with visiting the dentist, and my son is no different. It’s always been a very stressful and emotional time for both of us. I thought with age that he may have grown out of it a bit, but it turns out that even aged 18, his fear is just as it always was, if not worse.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t look after his teeth as he should. His addiction to sugary drinks and failure to remember to clean his teeth don’t help the situation. However, try as we might to remind him that by changing his behaviour and looking after his teeth he could actually avoid dental work, he is not prepared to listen or make any changes.

As a result, his teeth need a lot of fillings, and that means more time in the chair along with the dreaded needle. On our most recent visit, I didn’t think we were going to get anything done as he would not relax and his body was shaking with fear, but somehow, thanks to the persistence of the dentist, dental nurse and myself we managed to get the work done in the end.

For a few years now, we have been giving him a relaxant medication prior to going to the dentist. This helps to make him sleepy so is able to lay there and endure the process. Despite the use of the medication, on this recent visit it took him a lot longer to calm down and I think he was in the chair for at least one hour for five fillings.

Fortunately, we have been able to have the same dentist each time we come in and she is great with him. She understands his fear and helps to keep things relaxed by using a gentle tone in her voice and is able to engage with him on his level about things he is interested in.

The dentist used a weighted blanket on him to help keep him warm and more relaxed. She spent a lot of time talking to him and numbing his gums prior to using the needle so he didn’t feel a thing.

The other thing we’ve done for some time is used some very cheap, but effective Virtual Reality goggles. They’re very simple and you just need to download a VR app to your smartphone and slip your phone into the goggles allowing him to focus on the screen while the dentist does the work.

In the end we managed to get the fillings done and he did well. At one point though, early on, the dentist called me aside and spoke to me about the possibility of a referral to the special dentist in the city. We have been here before we started using the relaxant medication. At the dental hospital they use a General Anaesthetic allowing them to safely put the patient to sleep while they undertake the work that needs to be done. The cost is dependent on whether or not your child has a health care card. It’s definitely a good option and has worked well for us in the past, but ideally, I prefer to see the dentist locally.

If things don’t improve in regards to my son’s dental hygiene, then we will have to face more of these visits to the dentist if future. I can only hope that he realises the cause and effect of it all and starts to manage things better, but he’s of an age now where he won’t listen, he thinks he knows it all and has an answer for everything.

For now, I’ll just be grateful that we made it through this round of fillings. For autism Mums it’s the little things that are actually big wins and we need to be proud of each and everyone of these achievements.


SASI Guest Parent Blogger

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