Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between sensory sensitivities and oral care difficulties in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) or typical development (TD).
Methods: Participants included 396 parents of 2- to 18-year-old children with ASDs or TD who completed a questionnaire about oral care in the home and dental office. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were conducted to examine the association between sensory sensitivities and oral care variables.
Results: Both hypotheses were supported: (1) ASDs children vs. TD children were reported to have a significantly greater prevalence of sensory over-responsivity across all sensory domains; and (2) ASDs children characterized as "sensory over-responders" exhibited a significantly greater prevalence of oral care difficulty in the home and dental office vs. ASDs children who responded more typically to sensory stimuli ("sensory not over-responders").
Conclusions: This study provides further evidence for the impact of sensory processing problems on oral care, both in the home and dental office. Methods to best serve children with autism spectrum disorders may include strategies that alter the sensory characteristics of the dental environment as well as interventions to reduce children's sensory sensitivities.