People with learning disabilities may have sensory sensitivities, so the prospect of visiting a dental surgery with strange sounds, odd smells and bright lights can be anxiety inducing. To help support patients you can try:
- Offering the first or last appointment of the day, so the surgery is not as busy and there is less wait time, so anxiety levels are lowered
- Explaining and demonstrating each procedure before it happens, using simple, clear language
- Counting down procedures: “10 seconds then we are finished”
- Reducing the amount of medical equipment or noise in the surgery.
Learning some Makaton can also help to support your patient’s communication needs. Makaton is a system of signs and symbols which you can use alongside spoken language. We helped produce a special set of prompt cards for patients visiting the dental practice which are free to download from Makaton’s website (create a login on the site and search for ‘Your dental appointment’ in the Library section). It’s easy to learn a few of the key signs, or to print out and make a pack of cards available in your surgery for patients to use.
Last year, we worked with HEE North East & North Cumbria, Makaton and the charity Positive Choices, to highlight some of the positive things you can do to support patients with learning disabilities. We are currently working on phase 2 of this project, producing more resources and materials to help support patients, which we aim to release this autumn.
Let us know what you are doing during the week, tag us on social media @thebda on Twitter, @thebritishdentalassociation on Facebook, and @britishdentalassociation on Instagram and use the hashtag #LDWeek2022