Improving oral health for individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Embargo End Date
Shuaib, Maya
Moyer, Madeline
DeVous, Alyssa
Vazquez, Marianna
Anderson, Kelly L.

Shuaib, Maya; Moyer, Madeline; DeVous, Alyssa; Vazquez, Marianna. 2022. Improving oral health for individuals with autism spectrum disorder -- In Proceedings: 21st Annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Forum. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University, p. 11


Problem Statement: Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience heightened sensory input resulting in difficulties when performing daily oral hygiene care. Most children and adults with ASD are less likely to receive preventative health care services due to sensory processing difficulties and lack of access to dental care. The oral health objective of Healthy People 2030 addresses awareness to the lack of oral health concerns for these individuals. Efforts to make homes, schools, workplaces, and public places easier to access can help improve quality of life and overall well-being for people with disabilities.

Purpose: The primary goal of this project was to educate ten paraeducators at Heartspring, a residential and day school which serves children with disabilities. The areas of educational focus were the importance of oral health, nutritional guidelines, how to provide daily brushing and oral health care using modifications for the residents with ASD in the age group of five to twenty-two (N=60).

Methods: Through systematic research in reviewing thirteen published articles, it was found that individuals with autism do not have a greater genetic risk of developing caries, however lack of proper daily oral hygiene care increases the risk of oral disease. The oral health education provided to the paraeducators focused primarily on oral hygiene instructions and nutritional counseling using a presentation, hands-on activities, and pamphlets. Modifications to home care include, social stories, placing a tennis ball on a toothbrush, and extended REACH flossers. Social stories consequently soothe the hypersensitivities for children and adults with ASD which may allow them to form an oral hygiene routine. Nutritional counseling was stressed for providing healthy options and avoiding sugary foods. Pre and post surveys were administered to the paraeducators.

Results: Ten paraeducators at Heartspring received a greater understanding of proper oral hygiene instruction and modifications to oral care. This type of educational effort ties directly to the Healthy People objective as described. Pre-test scores averaged at 70% and increased approximately twenty percent after the post-test was given.

Conclusion: The program provided paraeducators at Heartspring to be better prepared to assist individuals with home care habits and improve oral health. Using these educational tools will benefit individuals with ASD at Heartspring in reducing sensitivities, forming a routine, and having educated assistance, therefore leading to fewer dental visits due to dental disease.

Table of Content
Presented to the 21st Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Forum (URCAF) held at the Rhatigan Student Center, Wichita State University, April 15, 2022.