A dental hygienist and care giver to a son with autism did a bit of field research on what could help make a visit to the dentist a success for the child and family.
She found five factors, with communication central to the whole effort. She visualized it this way:
Note the importance of Parent carer confidence. There’s the saying that you should be your own advocate when it comes to your medical care. Caregivers have to advocate for those who rely on our help. In the case of dental visits, the author of the study found that
Parents expressed a lack of confidence in approaching the dentist when issues arose. They often assumed that the dentist’s education had provided enough training to understand and support individuals who struggled attending dental examinations. For those parents confident enough to ask for minor changes to meet their child’s individual needs, they reported that these requests were often met with reluctance. Therefore, despite their best efforts, dental visits were largely unsuccessful.Dental teams that took time to respond flexibly to parental requests for support had more positive experiences. Check-ups were also positive when the whole dental team became involved in the care of the child. This was demonstrated by one dental team who discovered a boy’s love for washing machines. There was a washing machine at the practice so the receptionists would take him to see it if the dentist was running late, or after his check-up.Helpful strategies included providing information on what to expect before a check-up and making thorough notes so parents did not have to repeat themselves at every appointment. This continuity before and after a check-up was really valued by participating families.