If someone is in a wheelchair, it’s pretty easy to see that they will need a ramp or an elevator to go over a curb, or may require help to move from a wheel chair into a dental chair, or might struggle to hold a toothbrush or floss. But what about those of varied abilities that aren’t readily visible?
Autism, considered an invisible condition by many, can make it difficult to access dental care or even brush teeth. Many of those on the spectrum process stimuli differently, making it overwhelming in the dental setting.
Many more deal with apraxia movements including in their mouth. It makes it difficult to have someone work in the mouth while coordinating movements like swallowing. There is still so much we don’t fully understand about the various ways that those on the Autism Spectrum experience the dental office. Learning how to make the dental environment accessible and friendly with our patients is a huge priority at Floss Bosses.
What our appointments look like for those with Autism Spectrum?
We start with an intake form, learning as much as we can before the appointment, gathering all the information on the triggers, likes and dislikes. We want to know how we can best set up the clinic to help our friends be comfortable. It lets us make modifications and adjustment to the upcoming appointment.
This could mean:
- turning off any flourescent lighting,
- turning off the stereo,
- providing weighted lap pads,
- providing photos of the space our team in advance,
- providing visuals of the process to reference during treatment, or even a little video of what we do.
It could mean we don’t do any dentistry at all, but just introduce the dental chair slowly, and provide a time to explore what the various common examination tools are. We work with an individual behind the teeth and mouth. Many will need a slower pace, and lower stimulation than a typical dental office provides. At Floss Bossess we are purposefully slowing everything down on specific days to make sure we move at an appropriate pace for the individual.
We also want to know how best to communicate with each person. There are many individuals on the spectrum who have struggled with receptive or expressive language. The way we speak can create calm, or may potentially increase stress. Some people want more information and lots of talking. Others may become strained by processing language. There are some that may have a communication device to help them speak, or need visuals to help them process the language. Our goal and hope is to tailor how we communicate to the individual’s needs.
Many family members and caregivers of those with autism may feel the stress of bridging all these gaps and needs at their loved ones’ dental appointments. They might feel awkward and reserved to feel like they can provide all the supports during treatment.
At Floss Bosses we’re here to help, we are not here to judge. We want to create an environment where a family member, who after all knows the patient the best, feels like they can be a part of the process. We want them to feel free to rub feet, massage hands, sing songs, take breaks. Whatever support helps your loved one in the dental environment, we think it is great and we want your input.
We aren’t going to scold you for not brushing and flossing properly your loved ones teeth. We are going to work with you to build from where-ever you are at. We will try with you. We will use your knowledge of the patient and our experience, and work together to make a plan. We will be creative. We will do things differently, and think outside the box to get your loved one to optimal oral health.
We aren’t looking for perfect, we are looking for progress. It can be as slow as it needs to be. We are happy to have a meet and greet with parents before the appointment, or chat on the phone. Let us take some of that stress off by learning as much as possible before your child enters the clinic.
The end goal for us, is to provide a place of trust, high quality preventative dentistry, where our neuro divergent friends can feel safe to receive dental treatment so that they can have healthy teeth for a lifetime. We would like to create a safe environment for all.
So please, spread the word to those in your life who are neuro divergent, who need something different. We are here to help.