alexa Needs for oral care among people with intellectual disability not in contact with Community Dental Services


Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research

Author(s): S Cumella, N Ransford, J Lyons, H Burnham

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Previous research has found an unmet need for oral care among people with intellectual disability. The key factors which have been indicated are low expectations, fear of treatment, lack of awareness among carers and problems in accessing dental services. The withdrawal of many general dental practitioners (GDPs) from the National Health Service (NHS) may have exacerbated the latter problem in the UK. The aims of the present study were: (1) to assess the extent of unmet clinical needs in a group of adults with intellectual disability living in the community who were not in contact with the Community Dental Service (CDS); and (2) to explore their perceptions of teeth and contact with dentists to identify how oral care can be improved. Interviews were completed with subjects and/or carers and a dental examination was completed. There were higher levels of untreated caries (decay), and gingival or periodontal (gum) problems among the sample than in either the general population, or in a previous survey of CDS users at day centres and residential facilities. The subjects were largely unaware of dental problems, and used the appearance and absence of pain to judge the condition of their teeth. They depended greatly on their carers for decision-making and support with regard to visiting the dentist and tooth-brushing. Carers requested training in oral care and the use of dental services, and support in dealing with clients who have problems tolerating tooth-brushing. The subjects had experienced a wide variation in the treatment provided by dentists, but had not found it difficult to access a dentist despite recent reductions in the availability of NHS dental care. They expressed a particular need for a good relationship with their dentist and for their dentist to have personal skills in relating to people with an intellectual disability. Dental screening checks and oral care training for carers should be made easily available. Care plans should include tooth-brushing and dietary issues for all clients who have their own natural teeth. There are significant training issues for dentists in developing personal skills in total communication, disability awareness and attitudes which value people with intellectual disability.

This article was published in Wiley Online and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research

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