Autism affects 1 in every 68 children in America. Often, children with autism struggle with anxiety in new situations, including during trips to the dentist.
Researchers from USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles decided to look into how dental environments could be adapted for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. They strived to create a more comfortable environment for autistic children who often feel overwhelmed in dental offices. For example, the overstimulation of lights, sounds, and equipment are common elements that may induce fear and anxiety.
Therefore, the researchers adapted the dental environment to be a better sensory fit for autistic children. They turned off overhead lights and headlamps, played soothing music and projected slow-moving visual effects on the ceiling to help calm and distract the kids. They even altered the chair, which, instead of using straps, used butterfly shaped arms that acted like a deep-pressure hug.
The study found that children who had appointments in the sensory adapted dental office had decreased anxiety and reported lower pain and sensory discomfort.
If you have an autistic child, discuss adaption options with your dentist so that your child can have an enjoyable dental experience with the least amount of anxiety!