Dr. Spencer Wade Receives American Society of Dental Anesthesiologists Funding

Dr. Spencer Wade, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, has received a grant from the American Society of Dental Anesthesiologists (ASDA) Education and Research Foundation to investigate the use of a multisensory room prior to general anesthesia induction for dental treatment in pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The research will take place within the NYU Dentistry Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities (OHCPD). The grant’s coinvestigator is Dr. Caroline Sawicki, a second-year pediatric dentistry post-graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow in the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research. The award provides compensation for participating patient families and additional financial support for Dr. Wade’s travel to the annual ASDA scientific session.

ASD can present significant challenges to oral care. Children with ASD frequently exhibit uncooperative and interruptive behaviors during dental treatment, thus commonly requiring general anesthesia to facilitate dental procedures. There is ample research on interventions to decrease preoperative anxiety prior to general anesthesia in children without ASD, but very limited studies involving pediatric ASD patients. “Due to the high prevalence of pediatric patients with ASD being referred for general anesthesia to complete dental treatment,” says Dr. Sawicki, “it is crucial to develop and implement novel interventions focused on improving pre- and postoperative outcomes in this patient population.”

The OHCPD provides special accommodations for patients with sensory processing difficulties, who may find the harsh lighting and cacophony of sounds in a conventional office setting disturbing. A unique feature of the OHCPD is a multisensory room, which is designed to reduce the sensory aversive characteristics of a standard preoperative room. The room’s adaptations to visual, tactile, somatosensory, and auditory stimuli have been shown to reduce sensory over-responsivity in patients with ASD and may have the potential to influence pre- and postoperative outcomes in pediatric ASD patients undergoing general anesthesia for dental treatment.

Dr. Wade and Dr. Sawicki’s research will determine the efficacy of a multisensory room as compared to a standard preoperative waiting room in decreasing pre- and postoperative anxiety, emergence delirium, and short- and long-term postoperative pain and adverse behavioral effects in pediatric patients with ASD undergoing general anesthesia for dental treatment. “As a result of my clinical and academic experiences practicing dental anesthesiology, I realized that novel strategies are necessary to improve the management of pediatric patients with special health care needs,” says Dr. Wade. “The results of this study have the potential not only to improve outcomes for pediatric patients with ASD, but also for children with other disabilities and typically developing children with dental anxiety and/or sensory processing difficulties.