Due to the overstimulation of a regular dental visit, kids living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty accessing care. With help from a ToothFairy Grant, Tufts University School of Dentistry’s Autism Smiles event gave children in the Boston area time to interact with a dental provider, instruments, and sensory stimulations that occur on a typical dental visit. In addition, 20 dental student volunteers received training on how to work with young patients with autism.
For many of the dental students, this was their first time interacting with a child with ASD in a dental setting. Autism Smiles gave them great insight into ASD and better prepared them to interact and treat children with ASD in the future. One of the student volunteers said: “I feel like we were able to make the experience positive for all of the kids. I helped a kid brush his teeth fully for the first time.”
The parents were also thrilled with the event. One even stated that the event had been life changing for her child. Since Autism Smiles, he has not had one tantrum about toothbrushing, which used to be a normal occurrence. Now he carries the stuffed animal he received with him where ever he goes and checks the bear’s teeth frequently. He is now aware of oral health and how important tooth brushing is. His mother shared that since having a child on the spectrum, she has never once come across a program that was as effective.