Achieving Optimum Oral Health for Kids with ASD Proves Extremely Challenging

January 18, 2021

Collaborations Between Dentists and Occupational Therapists May Make Dental Visits Easier 

Oral care for adults and children with autism can be a struggle due to issues related to the disorder.  Sensory defensiveness, uncooperative behaviors, and communication problems can make oral care and dental appointments extremely difficult. A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examined dental care problems for individuals on the spectrum as well as investigated the challenges dentists encounter when treating people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Previous research included in this study reported that as few as 50% of children with autism brushed their teeth the recommended twice per day and up to 61% of parents report that toothbrushing is difficult for their child. Also revealed was that only 40% of general dental practitioners would work with children with ASD. The study’s authors recognized that due to soaring rates of autism, dentists will encounter children with ASD in the near future and that more dental practices will be required to service the autism community. The researchers came up with several suggestions to help dentists provide care to the autism community. These recommendations include treating individuals with autism in more friendly patient-centered care facilities such as community centers, clinics or hospitals.  Another suggestion is training dental students to treat individuals with autism while still in dental school. However, the key recommendation from the study was for dentists to collaborate with occupational therapists to provide ASD-specific strategies and create sensory-friendly environments in order for dental visits to be more successful. 

Original Study

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