At World of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry we are fortunate to work with families that have a wide range of needs. For our patients with special needs including Autism, Downs Syndrome, and ADHD, we have developed an Acclimation Program. Many children (including patients diagnosed with high anxiety) benefit from a graduated introduction into dentistry, particularly if it is their first experience at the dental office. For more information on why a pediatric dental home may be the best choice for your special need child, click here!
Research has indicated that Special Needs often correlate with sensitivity around the oral cavity. Your child’s relationship with a knowledgeable dentist can walk you through feeding issues, changes in oral structures, and preparing both you and your child for developmental changes coming down the road. Some children lack the ability to fully open their mouths due to jaw development and may have difficulty brushing and flossing regularly, leaving them at risk for developing cavities and gum disease. Children with sensory challenges may be averse to the texture or sensation of toothpaste and a toothbrush, or may have a limited diet higher in sugar which can affect oral development. Finding a dental home that listens, becomes a therapeutic partner, and has resources available to their families is key in establishing a life-long relationship toward the health of your child.
The World of Smiles Team worked together to develop a comprehensive program that can be adapted to your individual child’s mental, physical, and emotional needs in order to introduce the new experience of a dental office into their every-day routine. At each visit, one of our Dental Assistants will guide your child through their experience at World of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, and maintain that relationship throughout the entire program. For questions regarding the fees associated with our Acclimation Program or related insurance questions, please contact us.
Program Screening – Prior to starting the Acclimation Program, a short questionnaire will be sent to your family. In addition to the New Patient Forms you will complete, this questionnaire will assist the doctor and dental assistant in developing the best program for your child based upon their individual needs and concerns. For children with Autism, parents can download a picture to use with their child’s visual chart or flipchart. If your child has been diagnosed with an active infection, is in pain, or has an abscess visible, the Acclimation Program may not be the best fit for your child, and more immediate action must be taken to preserve your child’s health.
Play Time Visit – This visit is a scheduled time for your child to come and experience our PlayRoom. Children can experience the turtle tank, look at books or magazines, or play with our toys. During their visit, a designated dental assistant will come out to the PlayRoom and introduce herself to you and your child, and may read a short story about visiting the dentist. Families are welcome to stay for as long as they like, and stop in for as many informal visits as they feel are necessary before proceeding to the Comfy Room Visit. At the end of their visit, your child will go home with their own World of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry Story & Coloring Book.
Comfy Room Visit – Within a week of the Play Time Visit, we recommend scheduling the second stage of our Acclimation Program. This 20 minute visit will begin in our PlayRoom, setting the stage for a transition through the door to the clinical office. At the appointed time, our dental assistant will invite you and your child to our Comfy Room. This special room has been sound-proofed to deaden outside noise for those children who are sensitive to auditory interference, and a fun beanbag pillow chair awaits with soft plush toys. Many of our children that are unable to complete a Big Kid Visit are able to sit through a lap-to-lap exam and fluoride treatment in this setting. During the Comfy Room visit, your child is allowed to explore the small room, and a special stuffed StarSmilez® animal with its over-sized teeth, toothbrush, and mirror will help acclimate them to the dental exam process. Each child will go home with their own dental exam mirror and hand-flosser to practice with at home before the big day!
Big Kid Visit – This third step in our Acclimation Program transitions a child from experiencing the Comfy Room to our big kid dental chairs. Soft pillow pets wait to greet your child as they sit, and for children that love Disney movies, they can experience lying back and engaging in another world. Their dental assistant will show them the various instruments that are used during this time using the Tell-Show-Do method. This may be enough for some children, while other children are now ready to proceed with a simple exam and cleaning. We will always strive to follow a child’s cues and abilities to complete only what they are ready to handle. At this visit, you and the doctor will evaluate your child’s needs; whether another simple visit should be scheduled, or whether a child is now ready to experience their New Patient Visit. The New Patient visit, which generally includes an exam, cleaning, x-rays if needed, and a fluoride treatment, is not included as part of the Acclimation Program Fee and can be billed to your dental insurance plan.
One of the many benefits we offer to families of children with special needs is our sleep dentistry option. For children with high anxiety or sensory challenges, we have found that using Non-IV Conscious Sedation or General Anesthesia provides the best experience for both the child and parent, as well as providing for a child’s overall health and well-being. For more information on Sleep Dentistry at World of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!
Click through to the National Maternal & Child Oral Health Resource Center for further reading about children with special needs.
Here is a video of Dr. Stafford talking to Don Hanson about his iOS app called Let’s Go Places. This is an intuitive social modeling app for all children learning what to expect for common trips around the neighborhood.