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Autism & Special Needs Dentistry

Dental patients with special needs such as autism are those who require special consideration during dental treatment due to physical, developmental, cognitive, or medical conditions.

Children with autism, MS, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome are some of the most common conditions that can make a standard dental procedure more challenging. With all children, establishing a trusting relationship with a dental provider at an early age is important, and when special needs are involved, it can be especially crucial that this relationship begins as soon as possible.


Children who are living with autism can suffer from a variety of oral health issues. Between 20% and 25% of children with classic autism will deal with bruxism, and tongue thrusting, chewing on non-food items, and erosion are also common. Self-injury, such as picking at the gums or biting the lips can create ulcers. Additionally, since oral hygiene routines are often difficult at home, plaque buildup and tooth decay are also common.

When working with children with autism, we will communicate with your child in a method that he can understand. We will develop a strategy with you about how to best approach the appointment, and we ensure that dental instruments are kept out of sight while reducing other sources of sensory input. Regardless of whether your child feels the most comfortable holding your hand or brining in a treasured stuffed animal from home, we can accommodate any needs.

Down Syndrome

Children with Down syndrome suffer from oral manifestations that need special attention from a pediatric dentist. Many people with Down syndrome experience early-onset periodontal disease, which is the most significant oral health problem that they will deal with. They commonly suffer from bruxism, teeth clenching, tongue thrust, and mouth breathing. In certain cases, congenitally malformed or missing teeth may also be present.

Many children who have Down syndrome can be treated successfully in the dental office. Pre-appointment planning to discuss your child’s functional and intellectual abilities may be beneficial. When working with these children, we use short, clear instructions while minimizing sight and sound distractions that could make it difficult for your child to cooperate. The “Tell-Show-Do” approach is often helpful in these situations, and we work to develop consistency and trust that will make the process as comfortable as possible for you and your child.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a movement and posture disorder that results in significant functional mobility impairment. Children with cerebral palsy are at an increased risk for periodontal diseases, cavities, oral trauma, injury, and enamel hypoplasia. Dental erosion as a result of gastro-esophageal reflux can also cause significant damage to the teeth.

When working with your child with cerebral palsy, we will take his intellectual needs into account when providing dental care. We practice active listening and are always sensitive to the communication methods that your child uses. We will also minimize sounds, lights, and sudden movements that could trigger uncontrolled movements or primitive reflexes.

Caring for patients with special needs takes understanding and compassion. Contact us today to find out how we can provide your child with exceptional dental care.