Ƶ Student Creates Pediatric Dental Video to Ease Anxiety of Visiting the Dentist

Occupational Therapy capstone project creates video with interdepartmental collaboration

  • IL - Downers Grove
  • MWU Clinics

 

A visit to the dentist can be difficult for young children, especially for autistic children with sensory sensitivities. In an effort to ease the pending visit, Carly Rascia, O.T.D. and 2023 graduate of the Occupational Therapy Program, collaborated with the College of Dental Medicine-Illinois (CDMI), Media Resources, Marketing, and Social Media during her doctoral capstone to create an informative video series that won a Silver Telly Award.

Dr. Rascia worked on this video series in her final year as a student on the Downers Grove Campus and shared that her inspiration for this project was her experience going to the dentist. “As a young child and even as an adult, visiting the dentist has never been my cup of tea. I particularly do not enjoy the sounds of the different tools,” Dr. Rascia said. She considered how visiting the dentist could impact individuals with sensory sensitivities, such as autistic children. “There are a lot of different sensory inputs that are involved in a dental visit, such as the bright overhead lights, loud tools, the taste of the toothpaste, and the feeling of the toothbrush,” Dr. Rascia shared. This motivated her to examine how to improve dental visits for autistic children.

Research indicated to Dr. Rascia that social stories and videos could prepare children for their visit. “Watching the videos prior to their appointment gives children and their families an idea of what they can expect during their visit, which has made them feel more comfortable overall,” Dr. Rascia added that families can also prepare for the appointment by bringing supplemental supplies the children might require, including noise cancellation headphones, sunglasses, or a weighted blanket. 

Carly Rascia in a white coat.
Carly Rascia, O.T.D., a 2023 graduate of the Occupational Therapy Program, collaborated with faculty and staff at Midwestern university to create a video to ease childhood anxiety about visiting a dentist.

During her interdepartmental collaboration, the decision was made for Dr. Rascia’s video to show a child visiting the dentist with a positive experience. As part of the video creation process, Dr. Rascia observed a variety of dental appointments and procedures. Dr. Rascia collaborated with her team in order to determine the type of appointment to portray on video, sent the idea to media resources, and received a script which she reviewed and edited. Throughout the process, Dr. Rascia worked with her faculty mentor Divya Sood, O.T.D., OTR/L, Professor, Occupational Therapy, Downers Grove; and her site mentor Ahmed El-Maghraby, D.M.D., FAGD, M.P.H., Director of Clinical Faculty, Dental Institute, Downers Grove. For the video, she also worked with Sheila Hall, D.D.S., Clinical Assistant Professor, Dental Institute.

“A child’s first dental visit paves the way for a lifetime of good oral health. Social stories can have a great impact in preparing the child for all the sensory stimulation of a dental visit and to make sure that first visit is positive,” Dr. El-Maghraby said.

Dr. Rascia expressed gratitude for the guidance from her mentors and the opportunity to work on the video project. “I was ecstatic to see how excited the people involved were about the video. And now, seeing it published on Ƶ’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, has made it all worth it,” Dr. Rascia said. She shared her hope that people would find the video comforting and offer positive experiences visiting the dental office. “I hope they get an idea of what visiting the dentist is like, and I hope it brings them ease leading up to their next dental appointment.” This video will be a part of an ongoing series. 

Dr. Sood said, “This project is a perfect example that aligns well with the vision statement of the occupational therapy profession,” and added that the vision statement expressed how the field increases patients’ well-being, health, and their everyday lives.

Currently, Dr. Rascia is a pediatric occupational therapist at M Street Pediatric Therapy, where she works in early intervention.

Ƶ offers a plethora of opportunities for students to become patient-centered healthcare professionals and take lessons from the classroom to their careers. Capstone projects provide collaboration opportunities for occupational therapy students to work with community organizers for solving problems and creating innovate solutions that address patient needs. The video series hopes to help alleviate fears or concerns about a visit to the dentist for children and their families. Ƶ’s Dental Institute offers pediatric dental care for children under 14 with faculty and student dentists providing dental care in a safe and caring environment as they set the path for proper dental habits, including brushing and flossing, for children to form healthy habits early.

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