By Jonathan Slack, Market Research & Development Specialist, AHSS
I used to dread taking my sister Jennifer to the dentist. She would have a fit every time we went. The bright light above her head bothered her, she hated feeling all of the dentist equipment in her mouth, and trying to get her to stay still for more than 30 seconds was as difficult as hiding an elephant. It was a trying time, one my family never looked forward to.
All of my memories of taking Jennifer to the dentist flooded back to me when I saw a research article discussing the benefits of removing some of the sensory stimuli in dentist offices.
Researchers found that when they had their teeth cleaned in a sensory-adapted dental environment, individuals on the autism spectrum reported:
- less anxiety,
- lower pain,
- and lower sensory discomfort.
In this environment, researchers:
- turned off the overhead office lights and headlamps (something my sister would have definitely enjoyed),
- projected slow-moving visual effects onto the ceiling,
- and played soothing music.
These are steps that dentists around the country can take to ease the anxiety of individuals on the spectrum. Moving forward I hope that dentists heed this study and create a better environment for people with autism.