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New resources support accessible oral health for all

We have collaborated with NHS England and leading disability charities and advocacy groups to produce a suite of new resources that support the goal of a positive dental experience for all.

A dedicated website - NHS Team Smile - features a series of short videos demonstrating what it’s like to visit the dentist or a member of the dental team, including getting a check-up, a radiograph, having a tooth extracted or a filling, and having your teeth cleaned. The resources are aimed at helping children and adults with learning disabilities to have a positive experience at dental appointments.

There is also a set of SeeAbility versions of the videos with audio descriptions to support people with learning disabilities or autism- who may also have sight loss.

‘Team Smile’ aims to promote a positive dental experience, so that everyone, including adults and children with learning disabilities, who often face extra barriers to care, can maintain good oral health. Former Chair of our England Community Dental Committee, Charlotte Waite, appears in the videos, helping to demonstrate to patients what to expect when visiting a dental practice, and how using Makaton can improve communication.

This collaboration has been led by North East and North Cumbria Multi-Professional Dental Education team at NHS England, together with the British Dental Association, the Makaton Charity, IT Matters, MiXit and Positive Choices.

The new website also has a resources section with a set of Makaton dental visit prompts and dental procedures cards, and relevant Makaton signs and fact sheets. Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs, alongside speech to enable people to communicate more effectively.

The Health and Care Act 2022 introduced a requirement for health and social care providers to ensure staff receive training on learning disability and autism. Our Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training is available to members and Good Practice Scheme practices and is developed to ensure you meet government requirements.

We encourage all dental practices to use these resources when needed, as well as signposting patients to the NHS Team Smile website. All people with a learning disability should have the support they need to access oral care and these tools can be helpful in supporting communication in day-to-day dental practice.