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The Best Ways for Overcoming Sensory Issues at the Dentist

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There are a lot of sensory issues that are involved with going to the dentist. There are bright lights, loud noises, and strange tastes and smells. Some children may have sensory issues making it difficult for them to comfortably visit the dentist. Luckily, as a parent, there are many things you can try to help your child overcome any fears or sensory issues your child has at the dentist. This article talks about the best ways for working through sensory issues so your child can have a positive dental visit.

 Practice at home

 Practicing at home is one great way to begin working through your child’s sensory issues and start teaching them the importance of dental care. Start by using visuals to help your child see what happens at the dentist. Read storybooks and watch videos about dental visits to give them a chance to see what it’s like before they head to their own appointment.

 One method that many parents have had success in is turning a dental visit into a role-playing game with your child. You can play the dentist and your child can play the patient. This is a fun and interactive way for them to practice what it will feel like to be at the dentist. They can work on laying with their feet out flat and their hands on their stomach. You can also work on opening their mouth wide. Making this into a fun game can help them become comfortable when they have to stay in this position at their appointment. 

Schedule a familiarization appointment

 Another thing that will help your child overcome their sensory issues is scheduling a familiarization appointment. These appointments give your child an opportunity to see the dental office before any work is done on their teeth. Most dentists are more than willing to schedule appointments like this, so calls yours to get one set up. It allows your child to meet the staff members and experience some of the sensory elements before their teeth are worked on. If your child can become familiar with the environment before their appointment they will be more comfortable on the day of their dental visit.

 Talk to your dentist

 Finally, talk with your dentist about ways to overcome your child’s sensory issues. They are a great resource for information and advice on working through issues and answering any questions you may have. It’s important to have your child visit a dentist every six months to ensure their mouth is healthy. Your dentist will want to make sure they are comfortable at each visit and will be willing to make any accommodations catered towards your child’s needs.

 Dentists often make different accommodations during a child’s appointment depending on their needs. Some common ways dentists work to improve a child’s dental experience are: using a toothpaste flavor that your child prefers, having your child use a soft blanket during the appointment, wearing sunglasses to help with the bright lights, and/or using headphones to play calming music. If there is something you feel that will help your child, just ask your dentist and they will be happy to help you.

 The dentist office can be an overwhelming place for anybody. However, sometimes children struggle with the sensory issues that are associated with dental visits. Thankfully, there are ways to overcome these issues and turn the dentist into a positive place. The dentist office can be a great learning experience for you and your child, and your dentist will work to make the visit be as comfortable as possible. Hopefully, these tips have given you a foundation that will help make your child’s dental visits be great.


Dr. Greg Grillo has been practicing family dentistry for over 17 years in Washington State. He especially enjoys caring for growing families in his practice and remains passionate about incorporating new technologies into his work that enhance the patient experience.

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