AIMS: Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may be at higher likelihood of experiencing poorer oral health and difficulties accessing dental health care. However, identifying which children on the autism spectrum may be more vulnerable to experiencing dental care difficulties is still unknown. This study investigated parental reports of oral health and dental service needs of children diagnosed with autism and explored relationships with clinical phenotypes.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Participants (n = 140) were parents of children on the autism spectrum who had participated in a large national biobank study, the Australian Autism Biobank, invited to complete additional surveys about oral health, service use, and barriers to care. One third of parents reported their child's oral health was worse than other children the same age, with 26% reporting untreated dental problems. A third of children were reported to have undergone general anaesthesia at least once for dental procedures. Children who had undergone general anaesthesia were more likely to have intellectual disability and greater functional difficulties. Parents of children with greater functional limitations and sensory challenges reported experiencing barriers to accessing dental care more frequently.
CONCLUSION: These results have important implications for paediatric dentists working with children diagnosed with autism with co-occurring intellectual, functional, and sensory challenges. Findings may inform the development of more personalised autism-specific supports.