Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some people with ASD excel in visual skills, math, music, and art.
Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum. Studies show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. ASD is estimated to affect more than 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.
So how do dentistry and Autism Spectrum Disorder come together? Dental visits are not easy for a child with Autism. The disruption of a schedule, the unfamiliar noises and interaction with new people, invading personal space with dental instruments, and reclining in a strange chair are all difficult and unwelcome to someone who depends on routine and familiarity. And this only describes the initial exam!
Dr. Greg Evans wrote a great article about his experience with dentistry for the Autistic child here. Dr. Evans outlines how to choose a provider and get the treatment for autistic children.
One of the most important things parents of children with ASD can do is establish a long term relationship with an office and dentist who meets the needs of the child. Becoming comfortable in an office is a two way street, the parents and child gain familiarity and trust, and the dentist can try to adjust behavior modification methods over time with a history to draw from.
Pediatric Dentists are typically the most experienced dental professionals for treating children with Autism, due to the 2-3 additional years of training in residency. Be sure to do your research when looking for a Pediatric Dentist, as some dentists claim to be ‘Kids Specialists’, however they are usually general dentists who limit their patient base to kids, but did not complete a hospital-based pediatric residency.
Dr. Evans’ main points for choosing a provider and getting treatment for your child with Autism include; researching your professional, having a desensitizing visit, schedule plenty of time, be realistic, discuss options for treatment, and ask questions.
Our office strives to provide the care, time, and expertise outlined in Dr. Evans’ article. We welcome families of children with Autism to our office for a tour, and to meet Dr. Sjostrom and our staff.
Here is an informative video with some great tips for having a successful dental health plan for children with Autism:
Some great tips here that I may find helpful with my step-son who is autistic! Unfortunately though, he has to be sedated whenever he goes to the dentist. It would be awesome to find a dentist where he lives that could treat him without sedation.