By Kelsi Matylewicz/Benco Dental Social Media Intern

This statistic refers to the number of children in the United States born with Autism.

“Autistic patients, as well as patients with similar behavioral and possibly intellectual challenges, present a unique challenge for dentists, as well as parents. Most dental procedures involve the use of bright lights, loud noises, and touching of a very sensitive part of the body,” according to Dr. Marielaina Perrone of Henderson, Nevada

“Hypersensitivity to one’s environment is usually a hallmark trait for most autistic patients. This makes dental care even more challenging, as they may react adversely to the sensory overload. Autistic patients do not like change in their daily schedules, new noises, new people, or new activities. In the past, these challenges would lead to most dentists turning away such patients, but in modern dentistry this is no longer the case.  There are many dentists who have training to help them with the special challenges that come with autism.”

A few of these dentists were  interviewed recently by Incisal Edge dental lifestyle magazine, including Dr. Angela Lutz, shown above, from York, Pennsylvania and Dr. Melissa Mullane-Padgett, from Boardman, Ohio.

Read more about them:

Dr. Perrone shared some common dental issues for autistic patients and techniques in a recent blog:

  • Poor dental hygiene.
  • Increased tooth decay.
  • Teeth grinding or bruxism.
  • Self-injury. Many autistic patients will bite or pick at their gums creating an issue dentally. A mouth guard might be recommended as long as the autistic patient can tolerate it.
  • Medication related issues. Many autistic patients suffer from seizures and therefore take medication for it. These medications can lead to decreased saliva production which can lead to dry mouth and subsequent bad breath and tooth decay.

Dr. Perrone offers helpful techniques, among others on her blog:

  • Set up a Pre-Appointment Tour and Introduction. Parents should talk to the dentist ahead of time to let him/her know a bit about the child, including what helps to soothe and what is an easy set off for behaviors. Let the patient come to the office to tour the facilities as well as let them see and touch everything that they are allowed to, this is to familiarize them with everything in the office and let them feel more comfortable when it comes time for their appointment
  • Keep Initial Visit as short as possible. Make the first visit quick and as noninvasive as possible.
  • Have Parents in Room if Needed. This one becomes a personal choice between parent or caregiver and dentist. Some patients do well with them in room and some do not. It is totally a case by case decision.