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How can dentists make their appointments more autism friendly?

The start of April marks the start of “world autism acceptance week”, a week-long awareness campaign whereby the National Autistic Society shares stories, opportunities, knowledge and understanding to promote greater acceptance of people with autism globally. This year, the key message is “acceptance” and helping to create a better world where autistic people are fully supported and celebrated for their difference.

As an inclusive company we have a responsibility to improve our understanding regarding autism spectrum disorder. How can dental professionals make their appointments more autism friendly?

We spoke with one of our dental advisors who has worked in special care dentistry to give us a professional insight and helpful tips on how dentists can make their appointments more autism friendly and less intrusive for their patients.

Give the patient time. Where possible allow your patient to visit your practice ahead of their scheduled appointment, allow them to explore the surgery, walk around, take in the smells, sounds and environment. This can help autistic people get used to the surroundings and know what to expect at their appointment. Do not expect to carry out a full dental examination on the first go, multiple appointments may be required to acclimatise the patient and make them feel more at ease.

Try and keep equipment/ instruments to a minimum. A lot of autistic patients do not like loud noises, so be mindful of this when they are attending appointments. When patients feel more comfortable in the surgery and with the dentists and nurses, start to slowly introduce them to some sounds and equipment which they might be exposed to, as just seeing the different types of dental instruments can be scary sometimes.

Make reasonable adjustments. Supporting your autistic patient as much as possible by providing them with as much information before their visit. It is also appreciated if you allow treatments to be spread over multiple visits or adjusting the appointment time to a longer visit, so your patient has longer to adjust and get used to the environment. Helpful tip, “allow patients to take home a disposable dental mirror, to allow family members to get used to the touch/ feel of it in their mouth.”

Consistency is key. If possible, try and keep the same dentist each time, this avoids unnecessary disruption to appointments and ensures the patient knows who to expect at each visit.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurological development disorder that affects people globally with their ability to communicate, learn, react, and act. In the UK, 700,00 adults and children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, which is more than 1 in every 100 people. But according to news reports this number could be more than twice as high as diagnosis can be difficult.

Want to get involved raising awareness and fundraising: find out more here.


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