Believe me, I know from experience, oral defensiveness and dentist visits
Making Dentist Visits More Tolerable
A personal story... It literally took us 4 years, 1 regular dentist and 2
different pediatric dentists, tears/anxiety/fears, choking, gagging, observing
other people having dental work done several times, countless failed attempts,
multiple explanations about oral defensiveness (one of the hygienists even
wanted me to come talk about it to the staff since they saw it to the extremes
many times!), and finally several thousands of dollars to get the more
"invasive" procedures (pulling teeth, fillings, and some of the cleaning) done
at the hospital under general anesthesia! Even the anesthesia experiences were
horrible; multiple attempts in and out of the O.R., and eventually a 2 minute 4
person restraint as my daughter nearly choked to death to get the anesthesia in
Needless to say, going to the dentist when you suffer from oral defensiveness
feels nearly impossible to accomplish for both the child and the parent (and the
dentist or hygienist)!
Unless, that is, you find a patient pediatric dentist, or one that
specializes in sensory processing disorders (knowing the basics about oral
defensiveness), AND you use the tools listed below.
Before Going To The Dentist:
Have your child participate in some good proprioceptive and
heavy work activities right before going to the appointment.
Use the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol prior to the visit (only if shown
how to do and suggested by a Speech or Occupational Therapist).
Do oral-motor brushing to decrease sensitivity (only if shown how to do
and suggested by a Speech or Occupational Therapist).
Have your child wear "close-fitting" clothing or body-suit underneath
their clothes for some even deep pressure.
Bring a sports bottle with water, or a cup of ice chips, for your child
to drink from or suck on during the ride to the dentist.
If possible, allow your child to run around outside, supervised of
course, until it is their turn... most waiting rooms can promote increased
anxiety and running around can promote a calmer nervous system.
Allow the child to use a vibrating massager while waiting; use around
mouth and/or hold it in their hands.
oral motor store
for Z Vibes, Oral Massagers,
chewy tubes and more...
During The Examination:
Have the child squeeze a stress ball or fidget toy during procedures and
Allow the child to wear a
weighted vest or
weighted blanket , Weighted Lap Pad, or the x-ray vest during cleaning/dental work to promote a
calmer nervous system through deep pressure input.
Make sure the dentist or hygienist takes the time to explain, step-by-step,
what he will do so the child knows what to expect
Have the child watch the hygienist put the chair in the proper "tipped-back"
position, THEN have the child climb into the chair (for kids with vestibular
sensitivities, the feeling of the chair being tipped back, not knowing how
far, can be a horrifying experience!)
Have the dentist, or hygienist, allow your child to feel the instruments
being used before they use them, and explain what the instrument is for/will
do (particularly important if it makes a loud sound or vibrates!).
If the bright light used by the dentist is too much, allow the child
to wear an eye mask or sunglasses.
Ask the dentist/hygienist to provide a choice of toothpaste flavors;
letting the child see it, smell it, and perhaps lick a tiny amount off his
Ask the dentist or hygienist if you can bring in flavored exam gloves
for them to use with your child.
Oh, by the way, after using some of these techniques, finding a great pediatric dentist, and getting our daughter's tonsils and adenoids out (turns out she couldn't breathe if her mouth was not "available"), our little oral defensive girl now tolerates cleanings well... and, for the first time, even went upstairs to his treatment area ALL BY HERSELF last month! Hooray!!
If you are a dentist or hygienist reading this, please take some time to
browse this site regarding sensory defensiveness. Trust me, although these techniques SEEM
like more work, they are definitely not in the long run. Feeling "safe" will
be the best thing for the child, and in turn, benefit you!
Parents: feel free to bring this to your child's dentist and give them
the opportunity to read it and discuss the accommodations they are willing
Finally... a dentist that understands the needs of SPD children!
Check out Dr. Lou Siegelman's practice!
New York City
dentist provides care for apprehensive, traumatized and special needs patients.
IV sedation available. Also, addresses gagging, oral defensiveness, dentist and
Z-Vibe Tips and Techniques
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