UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Travis Nelson’s autism study featured in ADA journal

Dr. Travis Nelson of the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry is the lead author of a study on treating children with autism that is the cover article in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Dr. Nelson examines child's mouth
Dr. Travis Nelson treats a young patient at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry’s autism clinic.

Dr. Nelson’s study discusses desensitization techniques, such as repeated visits, that could help many children with autism spectrum disorder. For the last several years, he has directed an autism clinic at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry that has enjoyed notable success in providing dental care to these children.

The behavioral issues of autism make it less likely for children with the condition to receive dental care than their typically developing peers, Dr. Nelson says. However, when children with autism were given the chance to practice dental skills at their own pace, most of the patients in the study were able to sit for an exam with a dental mirror, he says.

More than 75 percent of the children with autism in the study were able to undergo an exam in one to two dental visits, and nearly 90 percent were able to receive an exam within five visits with desensitization protocols, according to the study.

“The protocols we used are very simple and could be implemented elsewhere to help children with autism access needed dental services,” Dr. Nelson said.