Date of Award


Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Traci Beals

Second Advisor

Nina DeGroot

Third Advisor

Holly Grieves


Dental care is the most frequently cited unmet healthcare need for children with special needs (Cermak et al., 2015). Given the increased research linking oral health to overall health, it is important to ensure that dental care is accessible to all individuals. Oral hygiene and health management are both occupations included in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (4th ed). Combined with the unique training of an occupational therapist in sensory processing and environmental adaptations, the profession of occupational therapy has an important role in addressing the availability of dental care for those with disabilities.

The aim of my doctoral capstone experience was to explore the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration between occupational therapy and dentistry to improve dental care for autistic patients and those with sensory processing differences. This included a literature review to explore current evidence-based approaches, meeting with experts on the topic, developing trainings for different audiences, creating visuals, implementing sensory and emotional regulation strategies, providing parent consultations, and exploring reimbursement. The DCE resulted in improved dental provider confidence and increased advocacy for oral health care for autistic individuals. The details of the doctoral capstone experience will be further outlined in this manuscript.