Storybooks Effectively Prepare Autistic Children for Dental Visits

Dentistry Today

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Children’s storybooks with dental narratives can be effective tools in preparing children with autism for visits to the dentist. According to researchers from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry and the University of Washington School of Dentistry, 64% of caregivers felt that dental stories were useful for both themselves and their child in preparing for a visit to the dentist.

Stories were delivered to children via a range of media, including picture books, photographs, and video. Caregivers were questioned before and after the stories to analyze the effect they had on the children’s attitudes to visiting the dentist. The Oral Health Foundation believes the use of dental stories could significantly benefit the long-term oral health of children with autism by helping to develop routines involving positive behavior such as tooth brushing.

“Everybody needs to look after their oral health, but for children with autism, developing the required behavior to do so effectively can be difficult due to the level of intimacy involved when they are learning to look after their oral health effectively,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation.

“We have found that such activities like tooth brushing and dental visits can be particularly stressful for children with autism, as well as those with other learning difficulties, which can lead to increased levels of oral health disease. By using dental stories, we can help them achieve an improved level of care, and from this there can be real benefits to their oral health for life,” Carter said.

Children with autism are recognized to be at a higher risk of some oral health problems such as bruxism, ulceration, erosion due to regurgitation, and tooth decay as a result of limited dietary preferences. As part of its work to help young children develop basic oral health behavior such as habitual brushing via social stories, the Oral Health Foundation provides a wide range of children’s books.

“That is why we take great pride in being able to provide several dental stories through our Educational Resources store,” said Carter. “We also fully encourage caregivers of children with special needs to work closely with their dental team to ensure that they are doing everything possible to ensure that they child has effective ongoing care.”

The study, “Dental Stories for Children with Autism,” was published by Special Care in Dentistry

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