When we are faced with selecting a dentist to perform an exam, fill a cavity, then clean our teeth we hope s/he is patient, dedicated, knowledgeable, and compassionate. When choosing a dentist for your autistic child you must put more effort into your selection.
I make this comparison: imagine catching an angry lion in the forest, placing it at a zoo, and putting it in a cage. Is the lion just going to lay down and sleep? I do not think so. An autistic child gains so much strength when put in a situation causing her/him anxiety. What can you expect when you walk into that big dental office? You sit - that, in itself can be torture. Then, your child's name is called. You walk through the inner-office. Finally, the assistant places you in a very small, confined room. Do you expect that your autistic child will just volunteer to get on that strange shaped dental chair? Ayyyy! I do not think so.
When I taught autistic children in San Mateo County, CA there were a number of students who went to a dentist who gave them a shot putting them to sleep. During this time the dentist examined, completed the work, and cleaned the teeth all while the patient slept. I am not suggesting that any child should be given medication, sedated, or anything else - it is simply one alternative to deal with a tough situation. If your autistic child faces sedation of any sort be certain to discuss the type of medicine and the quantity to be used before the appointment to make certain s/he will not have any side-effects.
If you live in a large town then finding a dentist will not be as difficult. There might be one or more dentists who work with autistic children. However, if you live in a small, rural area you will need to decide if you want to drive to a large city area or try to arrange something with one of your local dentists.
Despite your decision, I suggest you contact your representative from the regional center in your area. You can also talk with different autism groups. Other parents of autistic children offer another resource. Group homes, that accept autistic children can often be of assistance to help you find a dentist.
Choose wisely - an experience with a dentist, no matter how patient, loving, wonderful s/he may be, can be a very difficult experience for any child - even more so for those with autism.
Until next time...