Association between oral care challenges and sensory over-responsivity in children with Down syndrome.

Stein Duker, Leah IMartinez, MelissaLane, Christianne JPolido, José CCermak, Sharon A


Parents of children with Down syndrome (DS) have reported sensory over-responsivity in their children especially when it comes to oral care. However, links between these challenges require more research. This study analyzes online responses from parents of children with DS to investigate the relationship between sensitivity and oral care challenges.


Sensory over-responsivity has been linked to oral care challenges in children with special healthcare needs. Parents of children with Down syndrome (cDS) have reported sensory over-responsivity in their children, but the link between this and oral care difficulties has not been explored. To investigate the relationship between sensory over-responsivity and oral care challenges in cDS. An online survey examined parent-reported responses describing the oral care of their cDS (5-14 years; n = 367). Children were categorized as either sensory over-responders (SORs) or sensory not over-responders (SNORs). Chi-square analyses tested associations between groups (SORs vs. SNORs) and dichotomous oral care variables. More parents of SOR children than of SNOR reported that child behavior (SOR:86%, SNOR:77%; p < .05) and sensory sensitivities (SOR:34%, SNOR:18%; p < .001) make dental care challenging, their child complains about ≥3 types of sensory stimuli encountered during care (SOR:39%, SNOR:28%; p = .04), their dentist is specialized in treating children with special healthcare needs (SOR:45%, SNOR:33%; p = .03), and their child requires full assistance to brush teeth (SOR:41%, SNOR:28%; p = .008). No intergroup differences were found in items examining parent-reported child oral health or care access. Parents of SOR children reported greater challenges than parents of SNOR children at the dentist's office and in the home, including challenging behaviors and sensory sensitivities.