Inspired by her own experience as a mum to a five-year-old son with autism, a dental hygienist has published new research hoping to make dental examinations less stressful for autistic children.
Giving children the power of choice – even in something as simple as the colour of mouthwash they use after their dental examination – could make a world of difference to a child with autism, according to Nicole Thomas, from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.
Nicole interviewed 17 parents about their experiences of taking their children for routine dental examinations – working alongside researchers at the Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit (PenCRU) at the University of Exeter Medical School, supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC). She was also advised by members of the PenCRU Family Faculty – a group of parents of disabled children.
Emerging from the study were five key areas that improved the chances of a dental visit being successful, with clear communication between parents and professionals central to ensuring the children have as good experience as possible.
“Going to the dentist can be challenging for any child, but I know from experience that taking a child with autism for a routine check-up can be really stressful for everyone involved, from the huge amount of preparation prior to and the impact afterwards if it is unsuccessful. So I, with the outstanding support of my mentor, Sharon Blake from the University of Exeter, was surprised at the small changes required that could make a really significant difference.”