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Autism is a neurological disorder that affects childrens social interactions, their ability to

communicate with others, and it can cause repetitive actions. There are different levels of autism
depending on how severe the disorder. There are different names, a milder form of autism is
called Asperger syndrome. Autism can occur in any ethnic group and can affect any age group.
According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Experts estimate that 1
out of 88 children age 8 will have autism. It has also been proven that males are four times more
likely to have autism than females. In 1912 psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler was the first to use the
word autism. Autism comes from the Greek word autos, which means self. So when he had
patients who were self-absorbed he came up with autism. When he did he actually referred to
them as being schizophrenic though, which we know today they are not. In 1943 Leo Kanner
who was a child psychiatrist actually did a study on children, which resulted in finding out that
these children were very intelligent, but they wanted to be left alone. Hans Asperger, who was a
scientist, was the one to report a milder form of autism in 1944 which is called Aspergers
Syndrome. Bruno Bettelheim in 1967 was the one to blame the disorder all on the mothers for
not paying enough attention to their children. They have come a long ways since then to really
understand the disorder and trying to help the children and everyone else understand each other.
Autism can occur within a child as early as infancy. Most people know that children are very
social and are very curious, children with autism will be the complete opposite. It is very
identifiable, children may not answer to their name, they may focus on one thing intently for
hours even with others in the room, they may be rude because they lack social cues and empathy.
Even with all the research on the disorder no one has been able to be pinpoint what causes
autism, but they do believe that it is both genetics and environment. It has been found that those
with autism have found irregularities in multiple areas of the brain. On the other hand there has

been studies that show levels of their serotonin abnormal. Even though they have done multiple
studies over the years, they need to continue so they can know for sure and hopefully help those
who are living with this disorder.
We know how autism affects the children within the social aspect of their lives, but it also
affects them physically. They have problems with their different senses. There are two types that
can be associated with different children. Some children may be hypersensitive or on the other
hand they may be hyposensitive. Children who are hypersensitive do not like excessive touching,
no loud noises, and extreme lights can cause a tantrum. Hyposensitive children actually crave the
affection from others, so they often come looking for being touched. You may also see a delay in
their fine motor skills. If you give them a task using their fine motor skills, they may experience
frustration and throw a tantrum. They may also have problems with speech, the more severe their
disorder is the harder it is for them. They also like to do things repeatedly, mostly because they
like things that are familiar to them or are predictable. To become familiar with something they
like to do it over and over again. Autism isnt directly treated with medication, problems that
they may have associated with autism can be prescribed a medication. Some of the most
common would be for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and seizures. For
actual autism treatment, you can only really try to help the disorder with therapists to help both
the child and care givers. Some medications can cause an increase in weight gain, and increase
levels of prolactin. So if parents use candy or any food as a way to reward their child with good
behavior that may need to change so they do not have contributing factors to a weight gain. With
different medications you may see a difference in their behavior, but it does not mean that you
are reversing the disorder. Autism is a lifelong disorder that can only be managed, it will not
progressively get worse or reversible. Medications and therapist can definitely help the behavior

of anyone diagnosed with autism, but it is just something that has to be learned to be managed
the best way possible.
There are a couple different ways that autism can affect the oral cavity. One of the first
things you may see a difference with is their tooth eruption. If they are prescribed the drug
phenytoin than they may have a delayed tooth eruption. They may also have a problem with
bruxism when they get upset, so if they can tolerate a mouth guard they should get one. There
may be incidences where they injury themselves by picking at their gums or biting their tongues.
Other medications may cause xerostomia or promote anorexia. Patients who have autism have
about the same risk as common people for caries and periodontal disease, but the fact that they
have problems with communication and their behavior it may be hard to get them to comply,
which then results in them at a greater risk. Dental caries and periodontal disease risk factors for
them would be if they are rewarded with candy or acidic drinks, their medicines, and getting
them to comply to brush and floss every day.
The fact that autism is becoming more and more apparent, it is very important for
everyone working in the dental field to become aware of how to help the patient be at ease and
like to come get their teeth cleaned. Once you have a patient with autism once, you should see
that patient every single time and in the same operatory. They like when everything is familiar to
them and cope better when things do not change. While working with the child make sure noises
are a minimal. Sunglasses should be used to help when you have to be moving your light, and
make sure to never shine it in their eyes. As a dental hygienist you do not want to do any
unnecessary touching. When teaching them OHI you want to make sure to reward them, it would
be good to have stickers available, if you reward them it might help them comply with doing it
more often. When giving the OHI, make sure to involve the caretaker, so they can hopefully help

them reach all surfaces. We also need to educate the care givers on how different medications
may be causing dry mouth and if they are not producing enough saliva and they are eating
cariogenic foods, they will have an increase in caries. With that being a concern we should
educate them on the prevention of caries and talk to them about getting sealants placed. Also
when talking to the care givers we need to let them know how important consistency is and how
if they can brush and floss everyday they will not see problems within the oral cavity.

McClure, B. (2010). Autism and the dental operatory. The Journal of Professional Excellence
Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. 8(2), 54-57.
Nordqvist, C. (2008). What is autism? Medical News Today.
Reynolds, T., Dombeck, M. (2006). What is autism? MentalHelp.
Wilkins, E. (2013). Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott
Williams & Wilkins. 919-922.