Dental experiences of a group of autistic adults based in the United Kingdom.

Affiliation

McMillion A(1), Van Herwegen J(1), Johnson A(2), Monteiro J(3), Cronin AJ(4), Remington A(1).
Author information:
(1)Department of Psychology and Human Development, UCL Institute of Education, London, UK.
(2)Paediatric Dentistry, Royal National ENT & Eastman Dental Hospital, London, UK.
(3)Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, UK.
(4)Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Royal London Hospital, London, UK.

Abstract

AIMS: Previous international research has shown that autistic people have difficulty accessing dental care due to sensory processing, anxiety and communication issues. However, it is not known whether autistic adults in the United Kingdom are experiencing similar dental care barriers. The current study investigated autistic adults' dental experiences in the United Kingdom. METHODS AND RESULTS: A mixed methods survey was given to self-selecting autistic (n = 37) and non-autistic adults (n = 43) to compare whether autistic individuals had more negative experiences than non-autistic individuals. Closed questions asked about anxiety, patient-practitioner communication, satisfaction and the dental environment. Open questions asked about autism-specific dental challenges, what works well at the dentist, and improving autistic individuals' experiences. Responses were analyzed using thematic analysis. Overall, results demonstrated that autistic adults in the United Kingdom have more negative dental experiences than non-autistic adults. These predominantly related to interactions with dental practitioners, a challenging sensory environment, anxiety, pain, and disclosure. Participants recommended sensory environment adaptations, ways to increase preparedness, longer appointments, and individual accommodations. CONCLUSION: This study offers best-practice strategies for working with autistic patients and highlights the importance of dentists working with autistic individuals to maximize the quality of care and outcomes for this underserved population.