This pilot and feasibility study examined the impact of a sensory adapted dental environment (SADE) to reduce distress, sensory discomfort, and perception of pain during oral prophylaxis for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Participants were 44 children ages 6–12 (n = 22 typical, n = 22 ASD). In an experimental crossover design, each participant underwent two professional dental cleanings, one in a regular dental environment (RDE) and one in a SADE, administered in a randomized and counterbalanced order 3–4 months apart. Outcomes included measures of physiological anxiety, behavioral distress, pain intensity, and sensory discomfort. Both groups exhibited decreased physiological anxiety and reported lower pain and sensory discomfort in the SADE condition compared to RDE, indicating a beneficial effect of the SADE.
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This study was funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (1R34DE022263-01; ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02077985) and by a seed grant from the Ostrow School of Dentistry; support was also provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (T32HD064578). We would like to thank: the University of Southern California Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy for their continued support; Michele Shapiro, PhD, OTR and Anat Baniel, DDS from Beit Issie Shapiro, Ra’nana, Israel for providing consultation throughout this project; Trudy Mallinson, PhD, OTR/L for her assistance with Rasch Analysis in developing the CDBRS coding scale; Irina Zamora, PsyD for assistance in confirming diagnosis of children with ASD; Elyse Peterson, OTD, OTR/L and Lauren St. Hilaire, OTD, OTR/L for their assistance in psychometric testing of the CDBRS, data collection, and inter-rater reliability assessments of measures; and Daniella Floríndez for her unmatched translating and interpreting skills.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.
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Cermak, S.A., Stein Duker, L.I., Williams, M.E. et al. Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. J Autism Dev Disord 45, 2876–2888 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2450-5
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Electrodermal activity
- Skin conductance
- Sensory processing
- Oral health
- Occupational therapy
- Dental anxiety