Access to oral health care for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: a cross-sectional study

Hu, K., Da Silva, K. Access to oral health care for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: a cross-sectional study. BMC Oral Health 22, 497 (2022).



Individuals with developmental disabilities, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), often suffer from poorer oral health than the general population as they experience challenges with accessing care. However, few studies have investigated access to oral health care specific to children diagnosed with FASD. Thus, the objective of this cross-sectional study is to examine the use of oral health care services by children diagnosed with FASD in Saskatchewan, Canada, and to identify perceived barriers that affect their access to oral health care.


Parents or caregivers for children with FASD under the age of 16 were recruited through community organizations. Between July 2020 and January 2021, 189 participants completed a 64-item questionnaire that assessed sociodemographic characteristics, oral health care utilization, and perceived barriers to care.


Most children (85%) had visited the dentist within the last 24 months. 55% of children had required sedation for some treatment. 43% of caregivers experienced frustration trying to access care for their child. Common barriers were cost (63%), location (55%), the child’s behaviour (78%) and caregiver anxiety (60%). 35% of caregivers believed their dentist lacked adequate knowledge of FASD. Univariate analysis reveals that income, caregiver education, residence location, and insurance status were significantly associated with reporting barriers. Multivariate logistic regression analysis reveals that caregivers who reported a high school education (OR=1.23; 95% CI 1.03 – 1.38); or public insurance (OR=1.33; 95% CI 1.24 – 1.42) or out-of-pocket payments (OR=1.37, 95% CI 1.20 – 1.46); or rural (OR=1.19, 95% CI 1.07 – 1.26) or remote (OR=1.23; 95% CI=1.12 – 1.31) residences were more likely to report difficulties accessing oral health care.


Our findings indicate that children with FASD experience various barriers to accessing oral health care. Social determinants of health were significant variables that increased likelihood of barriers. Like other vulnerable populations, cost and clinic location are notable barriers. Oral health care providers’ assessment and management of children with FASD are noteworthy for future research.

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