Last year our 8 year-old autistic daughter got a service dog. This was one of the best decisions we’ve made for her. She has been so much calmer since we got the dog (Pepper). Now Pepper goes with us almost everywhere. Situations where our daughter would normally withdraw or have a tantrum have been much calmer. We’ve had great success with her doctor’s appointments, which were previously out of control, but we are anticipating that we will have a problem with the pediatric dentist. At the first dental appointment with Pepper we got some weird looks, but it’s obvious that Pepper is a service dog so I just thought it might take a little time for a few people in the office to get used to it. My daughter had one of the best dental appointments ever with Pepper there. Last month when we went to a dental appointment, the dentist made a remark about leaving Pepper in the car the next time. I kindly mentioned that Pepper is a service dog that has made my daughter’s life much easier. The dentist mumbled something that I chose not to listen to. Now I am nervous. I’ve been going over this in my mind but I am not sure what to do about it. Forcing the issue doesn’t seem like a good idea. Should I just ignore it? Thanks in advance. – Siobhan
Siobhan – Neither forcing nor ignoring the issue will ensure a good outcome for your daughter. We suggest that you schedule an appointment with your daughter’s pediatric dentist to discuss your daughter’s needs. During the discussion express your concerns, and ask questions to find out exactly how the dentist feels about Pepper’s presence in the office. If you think that it’s worth it to continue with the dentist, you may want to give it another try.
Consider a pediatric dentist consultation
On the other hand, if the dentist resists the idea of Pepper’s accompanying your daughter, you may want to explore your options. You can get recommendations from friends for compassionate dentists, or search online for pediatric dentists who accept autistic patients. Call the offices, and ask how service animals are handled when they accompany a patient. You will be able to tell if the office has at least thought about the situation and how it will be received. Consider scheduling a consultation with a few pediatric dentists.
Interestingly, a May 2015 online article was published by the American Dental Association about a pediatric dentist who uses hypoallergenic therapy dogs in his office to help children have positive dental experiences. The interview of the dentist shows how he thoughtfully made this arrangement for children, while maintaining good order in the office. It’s an encouraging article that can give you confidence that you will be able to find an empathetic dentist to meet your and your daughter’s needs.
This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.