Dental Hygiene for Disabled Patients

Everyone deserves the chance to look after their teeth and to receive a high standard of dental care but many disabled patients are being denied this right due to lack of access to appropriate care and a lack of support at home.

It is estimated that in the UK around 3% of under 16’s have a disability and around one quarter of those have mobility problems. With adults, around 4million suffer from mobility problems and 2.5 million have difficulty with personal care.

Impaired mobility and the ability to access appropriate facilities are reported as the biggest barriers to dental care and in most cases patients only receive treatment in an emergency situation to relieve pain rather than attending regular care.

When caring for persons with a disability it is important to adapt the care they receive to suit their individual needs.

In the UK, the National Health Service operates Special Care Dental Services through local primary care trusts and it is important that dentists or other health care professionals refer to this service if access to normal treatment is restricted either through mobility or lack of appropriate facilities.

Poor oral hygiene and gum disease are common in those patients who cannot effectively manage their home care independently and those who are dependent on carers are relying on someone else’s skill and knowledge to carry out effective oral hygiene.

When caring for individuals with a disability it is important you know how to effectively manage oral hygiene and know what dental services are available within your area and how you can access them.

Effective brushing is the best way to avoid dental problems but for those with a physical disability it can be a difficult task either due to reduced mobility or even problems with dexterity or co-ordination.

A dental care professional can help you with different options such as modified manual toothbrushes with a larger handle or using an electric toothbrush, allowing the individual to clean their teeth with a greater degree of independence.

Cleaning between the teeth is a difficult task, floss is not usually an option for those with any degree of reduced dexterity. Long handled inter-dental brushes can be useful however it is often necessary to compromise on inter-dental cleaning. Instead individuals should be encouraged to use alcohol free mouth rinses and will usually need to see a hygienist more frequently.

For individuals with learning disabilities or dementia it is important to support them during dental visits to help make sure they understand the advice being given and are involved, as much as possible, in decisions about their care.

Regular visits to the dentist are of paramount importance and, if available, oral hygiene visits or oral health education sessions are a valuable way to motivate and educate the individual and/or their carer to take care of their teeth.

The Smile Centre is an independent UK based private cosmetic dentistry practice with over twenty years of experience in the industry. Our skilful team provide a range of services, including personalised partial and complete dentures, denture implants, cosmetic dentistry treatments and dental hygiene.