Special Needs Children

Going to the dentist can be scary for any child, but especially so for a child with special needs. We at Island Children’s Dentistry are trained and able to work with parents, thoroughly explaining the limits and risks of various techniques and their impact, and have offices that are designed to cater to all special needs children.

Should you have other questions concerning special needs dental care for your child or would like to set up an appointment please contact us.

Below are common questions regarding special needs dental care.

Q: Are pediatric dentists prepared to care for special children?

A: Absolutely. Pediatric dentists have two or more years of advanced training beyond dental school. Their education as specialists focuses on care for children with special needs. In addition, pediatric dental offices are designed to be physically accessible for special patients. Pediatric dentists, because of their expertise, are often the clinicians of choice for the dental care of adults with special needs as well.

Q: Will my child need special care during dental treatment?

A: Some children need more support than a gentle, caring manner to feel comfortable during dental treatment. Restraint or mild sedation may benefit your special child. If a child needs extensive treatment, the pediatric dentist may provide care at a local hospital. Your pediatric dentist has a comprehensive education in behavior management, sedation and anesthesia techniques. He or she will select a technique based on the specific health needs of your child, then discuss the benefits, limits, and risks of that technique with you.

Q: Do special needs children have special dental needs?

Most do. Some special children are very susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, or oral trauma. Others require medications or diets detrimental to dental health. Still other children have physical difficulty with effective dental habits at home. The good news is dental disease is preventable. If dental care is started early and followed conscientiously, every child can enjoy a healthy smile.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Brushing teeth

Children with Autism are hypersensitive, feel things more intensely than a typical child. For some children with Autism, brushing their teeth can be difficult. The sensation can be uncomfortable at first, and the child may need to be desensitized. Parents should start by using the toothbrush to touch the child’s lips or just inside the mouth.

Here are some tips that might be helpful:

  • Use a timer so the child can see when the task will be over
  • Some kids benefit from visual supports and schedules. Parents can print pictures or download different apps.
  • Once a manual toothbrush has been mastered, an electric brush can be introduced.
  • Expect that you may have to explore several options before finding a toothpaste flavor that the child tolerates.
  • A soft washcloth is also used for some children with oral sensitivities, as it is less abrasive.
  • Give the child as much control as you can. When they get to decide when to brush teeth, how many stokes, what toothbrush and toothpaste to use, things will be easier for the parent.

Dental Visits

Dental visits are recommended very early in life. Many parents who have experienced difficulty with other Doctor appointments often put off a dental visit for as long as possible.

It is important that the child visits a Pediatric Dentist. At Island children’s Dentistry the doctor and team are trained to get your child comfortable and make sure they have a positive experience. Doctor Island will guide your child through the treatment and show every step so there are no surprises. We will avoid loud noises and bitter tastes, and we are very selective of the dental materials we use.

During the appointments we will use verbal praise, or a reward after each step. Each child will need to work at their own pace to achieve the skills necessary for a happy dental visit. These are some examples of things we could do at the office:

  • Dim the lights if necessary
  • Turn down load noises
  • Show the instruments to the child before they go inside their mouth

If a child gets diagnosed with multiple cavity lesions and is anxious in the dental chair, we recommend to do the treatment under sedation. In that way the child is not traumatized or forcibly held down.


I have a very low-functioning autistic, intellectually disabled 9 year old son, who always has a lot of trouble at any kind of doctor’s appointment. Dr. Island was incredibly patient and kind to my son, and extracted a tooth and it was the first time he didn’t have to be sedated by a dentist to be treated, which saved us a whole lot of money out of pocket. I’m bringing both my sons back for a cleaning in two weeks. She is amazing, highly recommended, especially for anyone with a child with special needs. Thank you so much Dr. Island! JLT

This is the third pediatric dentist for my now almost 9 year old daughter. While the other dentists were good, Dr. Island has a special manner with children that makes them feel so relaxed and comfortable. Dr. Island and her staff takes you right on time and each patient is given special attention with no rushing. Dr. Island is the rare combination of excellent dental skills while also being a sweet, gentle and kind person. Children pick up on this. Before going to Dr. Island, my daughter had significant fears of the dentist as well as sensory issues that resulted in her refusal to put the nose mask on for nitrous oxide. So we were left with a child who cried though dental cleanings, had to be held down and had to go through IV sedation for cavity fillings and x-rays. Today, Dr. Island and her staff made my daughter feel so comfortable that she was able to go through an entire cleaning without being held down and without any tears. My daughter had a smile on her face when she left and thanked Doctor Island for a great visit. MS