Putting special thought into special needs dentistry

One of the things we often hear from parents of children with special needs is the anxiety and nervousness about taking their children for regular dental check-ups. For kids effected by sensory triggers, communication difficulties or even aversions to new places, the experience they have in the dentist’s chair can be greatly affected from the get-go. We explored this topic in our June 2015 issue of Indy’s Child Magazine but wanted to get to the heart of the matter recently by checking in with local expert Dr. Swati Singh of Smiling Kids Pediatric Dentistry.

Smiling Kids, which offers a pediatric dentistry practice for children of all ages, was kind enough to provide a few minutes on how they approach special needs dentistry and what to look for in your family’s provider.

Consider an office tour

“Our doors are always open,” says Dr. Singh. And that’s wonderful considering one of her first recommendations was to consider an office tour for either the parent or parent-and-child team. An initial tour allows a child to see what a dentist’s office is like, become familiar with the people working there, and of course, ask as many questions as they feel necessary. “We have a whole section on our website devoted to children with special needs that they can explore before coming in… we also have a What to expect at your appointment video that walks through the steps of a visit.”

Start early

As daunting as that first visit can be for families, Dr. Singh recommends families with special needs children have their first appointment by the first birthday. “Children living with Down Syndrome are known to experience tooth growth delay – on average, their first teeth may come in around 12-15 months, or they may have missing teeth. That first visit will help us identify with the family a good treatment or preventative plan for them – something we can all work on together.”

You have options

Families who recognize possible triggers for their children – whether too-bright lights or too-loud rooms always have the option of a quieter, more private room in a different part of the Smiling Kids offices, something they’re welcome to tour during an initial visit as well. “We know that not all our patients are comfortable in our larger room, so we have the option open to everyone who visits to use our private rooms. We can make them as quiet as they’d like, parents are welcome to stay, and they’re accessible to wheelchairs if needed as well,” says Dr. Singh. She also confirmed the option of weighted blankets which are a known therapy tool for children dealing with extreme stress or anxiety.

 RELATED POST: June 2015 “Special Needs Dentistry”

Allow yourself extra time for each appointment

As our previous article explained, it’s not uncommon for children with special needs to require multiple dental visits to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Dr. Singh notes that sometimes children with significant disabilities require dentistry visits that require sedation for their maximum comfort. “We can perform our services at St. Vincent’s Hospital – if families have that availability in their medical plan, then we’ll be there. It’s important to us to provide the best care and opportunity we can.”

Use your resources

The Smiling Kids website links to a number of resources valuable for any family, but when researching for the best dental help to meet your child’s needs, consider asking friends or call prospective dentists with any inquiries. “Our front desk staff is extremely knowledgable and if they don’t have the answer, they’ll call back with it,” says Dr. Singh.

We’d like to thank Dr. Swati Singh for her time and expertise when researching this piece. We hope you continue to stay tuned to the Indy’s Special Child channel for other important articles and pieces, or visit us on Facebook.

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