I was fortunate to live in a large city where there was actually a dentist that specified he saw autistic children. He set one day a week aside for his special needs children so that he could take his time with each one and he didn't have the pressure of other people with typical children being held up. It was a very stress free environment. He also had a little social story online about "Snowy" the snowman's first dental visit. He included pictures of Snowy in the actual office and took him through the steps and showed the different cleaning equipment so the children would know what to expect. It also demonstrated how to work with your child weeks ahead of time (a little bit each time) to open their mouth on command and work on extending the time they keep their mouth open for you. It also suggested that you teach them to keep their hands on their tummy or on their lap. I would read this little story on a daily basis with my son at least a week ahead of time so that once he was actually in the office, it was very familiar to him.
Also, there was a file where you could print out the paperwork forms to fill out ahead of time and bring with you to the exam fully completed. (This was a huge help for me since my son gets very impatient about waiting and will not sit still in the office while I'm trying to fill out the paperwork) So, that alone eliminated a bunch of stress. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to your appointment and take a walk outside if need be and walk to the office without having to be rushed. You could also make some practice runs to the office ahead of time to make sure you know the direct location and your child will know what to expect on the way there. If you do not have a way to print these documents ahead of time, ask your dentist if you can stop by sometime earlier in the week to pick up the paperwork to fill out ahead of time. If that is not possible, maybe there is a friend or family member that could come with you to help supervise your child while you fill out the paperwork and speak to the dentist. It can be very distracting to have your child act up and try to get your child in line when you are trying to listen to important information the dentist may be telling you.
Make sure the dentist you see is aware that your child has special needs and make sure they schedule enough time for your appointment slot, if need be. If at all possible, take the last appointment of the day so you are not rushed, or the first one so that you aren't stuck waiting later than necessary to be seen. (it depends on your situation and how well your child deals with certain things) But a first or last appointment will also result in less people and commotion in the waiting room. If your dentist does not have a social story, then you could create your own and use one of your child's favorite toys or stuffed animal to demonstrate what the dentist will be doing to check out his teeth and make them healthy. Make sure you reinforce that the dentist is there to help to make sure their mouth and teeth is healthy. Make sure the dentist is committed to giving the child an opportunity to get through the examination without the use of restraint or anesthesia. However, if you do have to use restraint, make sure you do so in the right manner and that it doesn't result in terrifying the child or making them have a bad experience. Also, make sure you dress the child in comfortable clothing such as sweat pants so it's easier for them to relax and be comfortable sitting in the dentist chair. If you have a long wait in the waiting room, you could take your child to the car, or outside, or another place that is quieter as you wait instead of forcing them to sit in a possibly noisy/crowded waiting room. If you have cell phone, the office could give you a call when it's your turn to be seen. If your child is stressed out in the waiting room, the visit will not go too well.
Wow, this is a lot, but I hope it helps. (=
My son started going to see a pediatric dentist shortly after his first tooth came in. The early visits mainly consisted of examinations only, then slowly they introduced sitting in the dental chair and the cleaning brush,etc. My son got to play with all the equipment several times before they attempted a cleaning. The first cleaning was done at around age 2.5 with only cleaning a few teeth as comfort allowed. My son is now 4 and was able to sit in the chair and and entire cleaning done on his own.
I'd recommend 'social stories' to prepare a child for what they might see and hear at the dentist office. Then, I'd be sure to educate the dentist/hygienist about your child's abilities or concerns.
My son went at age 3, again at age 4, and finally was dropped from his dentist at age 6. His teeth suffered badly from the delay in care. We finally took him to St. Joseph's hospital and he was put to sleep to have the work done. He wasn't in any pain afterward and now, at age 11, can go have routine cleanings, etc. done at a regular dentist.
Wow...dentists....first know that novicane may not work for some. You need a dentist that understands autism...also there are new meds for dentists to use when those cavities happen. Dr. Harris,DDS and Dr. Deevers,DDS in Nevada know!
Go to one that let's them watch a movie while they are getting their teeth cleaned. Make sure that they let your child hold and play with the instruments that make noise. That way they can "see" and understand how they work and where the noise is coming from. It really doesn't take very long with those tiny teeth, if they are skilled and know what they are doing. You can always call various clinics to see if they have worked with other children with disabilities.