Oral Health Challenges Facing the Autistic Child in Dubai: A Survey
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Aims: The aim of this study was to investigate the challenges faced by the autistic children and their families in Dubai from three different perspectives of dental care: oral care at home, oral care at the dentist and access to oral care, and to compare the results to their normally developing peers. Materials and Methods: This is a case control comparative study, of 84 autistic and 53 healthy 2 to 18 year old children who were recruited from autistic children attending special needs centers in Dubai and from schools in the same geographic areas including siblings of the autistic children whenever available. Data collection was by way of a survey questionnaire sent to the parents or guardians through the centers and school administrations. The data analysis was done using SPSS statistical system using frequency distributions, descriptive analysis and T-test analysis for comparison. Results: Significantly more parents of autistic children compared to parents of healthy children reported difficulty across almost all oral care variables explored, including oral care at home, oral care at the dentist and access to oral care. The autistic children experienced more difficulty in tooth brushing at home and needed to be physically restrained for it. Their uncooperative behavior and sensory sensitivities increased more during their dental visits, which discouraged their parents from taking them for regular dental checkups. More autistic children had never been to a dentist before due to their uncooperative behavior. Conclusion: This study indicates that autistic children in Dubai experience more challenges and barriers to oral care than their typically developing healthy peers.