oral health professionals adequately trained to provide effective and
compassionate care for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Many share
they lack confidence in doing so and many children with ASD often forgo
critical dental care.
Regis College’s Dental Hygiene Program has taken an innovative
approach to addressing this public health matter. The university’s
mission is to care for all, without distinction. This value has guided the
university’s approach to preparing future dental hygienists to properly care
for those with ASD, especially children. It is vital that these future
practitioners attain the competence to treat these patients given the increase
in the number of ASD cases in the United States.
Regis, the university is blending dental hygiene education with effective ASD
to sensory issues and other challenges, children with ASD may be prone to poor
oral hygiene and therefore require an increased need for dental care, and more
specifically, dental hygiene visits. Why? Various barriers including
difficulties accessing health care, potential patient resistance to treatment,
high cost or lack of insurance are all contributing factors. Current and future
dental hygienists need specific training to effectively treat this patient population.
Providing effective dental hygiene care to this population is
incredibly important to prevent periodontal disease and decay. Building an
environment of trust so patients feel comfortable in the dental setting is
vital, and it is especially important with individuals with ASD. To do this,
dental hygiene students need to be trained to successfully provide treatment to
patients with ASD. The goal of interprofessional training at Regis is to provide
them with the building blocks to effectively treat this population in the
future in private practice.
Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) defines interprofessional education
as students and/or professionals from two or more professions learning about,
from and with each other to enable effective collaboration to improve health
outcomes. This is a critical component to support comprehensive patient care.
Dental Hygiene Program recognizes the importance of interprofessional
education. This unique approach to prepare students to care for the person’s
wellbeing in its entirety, a core value of the university’s mission, is woven into
clinical and didactic courses throughout the dental hygiene curriculum.
goal of the Applied Behavior
Analysis (ABA) Graduate Program and the Autism Center at Regis
is to enhance the quality of life for children diagnosed with ASD and their
families. The dental hygiene program collaborates with the ABA program and the
Autism Center to increase oral health education and treatment for this
population. This year, ABA program faculty are providing an introductory
seminar on ASD for dental hygiene faculty and students. In the next academic
year, more training will be provided to the dental hygiene faculty and students
on ways to effectively treat this population. In addition, the dental hygiene
program will collaborate with a graduate student from the ABA program on
research to examine methods for students to be more successful when treating
patients with ASD in the dental setting. Conversely, the dental hygiene program
will provide training for the ABA students and Autism Center faculty and
families on the importance of oral hygiene.
primary goal of the interprofessionalism approach is to collaborate and improve
the oral health outcomes of those with ASD and to prepare students to apply
these innovative practices in private practice upon graduation. Regis College
is hopeful this new program will serve as a model to enhance dental hygienist
education and expand access to dental care for all.
Courtesy of Karen Hallisey-Pesa, D.M.D., Director of the Regis
College Dental Hygiene Program and
Jacquelyn MacDonald, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LABA,
Program Director and Chair of the Master of Science in Applied Behavior
Analysis Program and Co-director of the Autism Center at Regis College
Published on May 10, 2023