Simple methods ease dental care for children with autism

Center for Pediatric Dentistry’s autism clinic suggests ways to make dental visits successful

By Steve Steinberg  |  HSNewsBeat  |  Updated 11:30 AM, 06.29.2017

Posted in: Healthcare

  • Dr. Travis Nelson treats a young patient at the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry’s autism clinic. Steve Steinberg

Dental care that considers the needs of young patients who have autism is important to encouraging regular exams and treatment. 

UW School of Dentistry pediatric dentistry researchers have measured the effectiveness of some approaches. 

Dr. Travis Nelson of the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry is the lead author of a recent  study on treating children with autism.  The paper is the cover article in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Nelson’s study discusses desensitization techniques, such as repeated visits, that could be helpful for many children with autism spectrum disorder during their dental exams.

For the past several years, he has directed an autism clinic at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry that has enjoyed notable success in providing dental care to these children.

The behavioral issues of autism make it less likely for children with the condition to receive dental care than their typically developing peers, Nelson says. However, when children with autism were given the chance to practice dental skills at their own pace, most of the patients in the study were able to sit for an exam with a dental mirror, he says.

More than 75 percent of the children with autism in the study were able to undergo an exam in one to two dental visits, and nearly 90 percent were able to receive an exam within five visits with desensitization protocols, according to the study.

“The protocols we used are very simple and could be implemented elsewhere to help children with autism access needed dental services,” Nelson said.

Nelson is a clinical associate professor at the UW School of Dentistry and also has hospital privileges at Seattle Children’s.

News media contact:

Steve Steinberg, UW School of Dentistry, 206.616.0827

Tagged with: pediatric dentistry, children, autism, dental care
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