Communication is a challenge when administering anesthesia for dental treatment in people with autism

By Robert Rada, DDS, MBA
Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago

Individuals with autism may require general anesthesia for dental treatment, which may result in behavior complications.

What did you do in your research?
This study discusses treatment needs as well as adverse events during the perioperative period for individuals with autism who have had general anesthesia for dental treatment in the hospital.

What did you find out?
For individuals with autism, complications in the perioperative period are generally similar to any individual undergoing dental care under general anesthesia. But, there are some unique occurrences. Many of these relate to communication issues, both before and after the patient is under general anesthesia. Disruptive behaviors, including behaviors requiring physical restraint and multiple staff to administer sedatives as well as physically violent behaviors such as kicking, spitting, and running away from the patient room, are the most frequent complications when treating the patient with autism in the hospital. Therefore, dental treatment needs for patients with autism can be extensive since patients with autism have been found to have higher risk for caries, higher presence of plaque, poorer oral hygiene, and more unmet dental needs.

What are the take-home messages?
There are unique challenges encountered before and after administering anesthesia to individuals with autism. These challenges are often attributed to communication issues. Furthermore, extensive dental treatment needs are observed in persons with autism and highlight the difficulty in providing preventative care for this population. This is concerning as poor oral health can adversely impact physical health.

To learn more about these findings contact
Robert Rada.

Full Journal Article
Rada, R.E. (2013). Treatment Needs and Adverse Events Related to Dental Treatment Under General Anesthesia for Individuals With Autism. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 51(4) 246-252.