Add to Your Practice as a Special Needs Dentist: Autism Certification

By Dr. Yasmin Kottait, DDS, HDD, Dip CBT, MFDS Ed, MSc

Becoming a Certified Autism Center shows parents that you can be their dentist, whether their child has autism or another cognitive disorder or special need. This can help your dental practice grow and distinguish yourself as a leader.

Autism Spectrum and Dentistry

Wondering how to advance your career in service of children with autism? If you’re thinking of more ways to serve this amazing group of children as a Pediatric Dentist, here is what you need to know.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 15% increase from the last official report. The numbers are staggering and are on the rise.

But what does that mean to medical and dental professionals?

It simply means we will be meeting and treating children on the autism spectrum a lot more than in the past. It also means that we need a new set of tools to help every child that walks into our office become a healthier happier human being.

Autism and Pediatric Dentistry

A story from my practice

Let me share with you a story of a child I once helped on the spectrum.

His parents came to my office complaining that he wakes up at night frequently crying, without any apparent reason. Asking about his sleep habits, they say: pretty turbulent.

Food choices?

Well he only prefers pureed food, but weird enough this past month he hasn’t been eating much, and oh he has been losing weight. Does It surprise you that this child has 20/20 decayed teeth. One tooth is even decayed enough that a dental abscess developed underneath. The rest of his teeth are in such terrible state that the nerve of the tooth is exposed and I can say with certainty this kid has pain every time he puts something in his mouth.

Imagine this child’s mouth full of cavities – can you call this child generally healthy? Constantly in pain from his teeth, no food and no sleep?

I think not!

Just to demonstrate how delicate working with a child with Autism is – after fixing this child’s teeth, a new version of him emerged. It was like he was born again!

There are Many More Children with Autism Just Like Him

Now think of how many more children you can help move past one of the most common horrible chronic diseases in childhood: tooth decay.

Isn’t this reason enough why more and more Pediatric Dentists should expand their skills to treat children with special needs with further training in the field of autism; not only to develop more compassion and to spread more love, but also to spread more health and happiness to this vulnerable group of children.

I understand Autism Spectrum Disorder definitely offers its fair share of challenges to dental professionals. To treat a child on the spectrum, there are many dental “encounters” to be wary of – from the way the clinic smells, to other children in the waiting room, the moving chair, music in the background, many strange faces, and noisy dental equipment, all of which can lead easily to a massive sensory overload.

The unfortunate news is because all this is a recipe for a meltdown, most parents tend to delay taking their child to a dentist, which leaves more and more children victim to the smile-robbing disease called decay.

However, as a Pediatric Dentist with Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) training, the depth of understanding can be reflected on the treatment of every child that comes under your care and with every parent interaction.

What is the CAS certification and how can it help a dental practice?

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) offers certification programs to educators and licensed professionals who work with individuals with special needs.

This certification attests to your outstanding commitment to further advancing your knowledge and expertise in the field of autism.

Why should you complete the CAS? What are the skills you may gain with CAS certificate?

Consider the sensory issues that every kid with autism has:

It’s important to appreciate and understand any sensory issue that a child with autism will face in your office. Any visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, texture or even tactile unwanted stimuli may cause overstimulation and the dental treatment becomes difficult to complete. This is why it is very important to have coping strategies for reducing sensory issues to make the dental appointment proceed at a smoother pace.

Have the required special communication skills

Some common characteristics of autism involve difficulties with social interaction and communication. However, you need to build a channel to communicate with children with autism. You are required to understand how each child with autism communicates. Many children on the spectrum exhibit hearing or speech difficulties. It is sometimes difficult for a child with autism to follow direction, articulate wants and needs, or learn new things. Therefore, it is essential for a pediatric dentist to be aware of the manner each ASD child communicates by through observation of the child or input from the parents.

The CAS training and certification program will provide a better understanding of the behavior of children on the autism spectrum. Consequently, it is easier to shape the desired behavior at your office to meet children’s dental needs; not to mention gain parents’ trust and cooperation.

Influence skill acquisition at home

Beyond the clinical realm, home care to children on the spectrum is essential. Equipping yourself as a dentist for children with autism gives you the tools needed to train and help the parent provide the care needed at home to make your treatment a success. CAS training helps you guide your patient and their parent.

Enjoy the pleasure of success by treating children with autism

To me, success is not just a beautiful beaming smile after an episode of treatment, it is a bunch of mini-successes. My biggest triumph is when a child goes from absolutely hating the brush and the paste to brushing daily; from being given food rewards to being educated and trained through different non-food stimulants. My biggest success is when a parent knows and understands the importance of practicing and teaching oral health and frequent recalls.

In short, the CAS certificate will help develop an even larger impact on children with autism, their families and above all you as a healthcare provider.

Ultimately what you gain from CAS is even more love and more compassion as a “special dentist” that can go above and beyond the normal call for duty to serve.

Remember: “It is hard to describe the elation one can feel when a patient who doesn’t speak to anyone speaks to you.”

Written by:
Dr. Yasmin Kottait, DDS, HDD, Dip CBT, MFDS Ed, MSc, IBCCES Autism
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