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​PHE guide to make oral care more accessible for people with learning disabilities

11 March 2019 


The BDA welcomes new guidance published by Public Health England (PHE) on oral care and dental treatment for people with learning disabilities. Oral care and people with learning disabilities aims to help dental teams provide services that are accessible to people with learning disabilities.


There is a legal obligation for dental services to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that their patients with learning disabilities can use their service in the same way as other people. The guide provides case studies and signposts resources that can be used to support health professionals, paid social care and family to help people with learning disabilities access good oral care.


The BDA is concerned that people with learning disabilities have greater unmet oral health needs, poorer access to dental services and less preventative dentistry than people in the general population. Research shows that this cohort have higher levels of gum disease, higher numbers of missing teeth, higher levels of plaque and untreated tooth decay and increased rates of toothlessness. PHE estimates that there were more than a million people with learning disabilities, including 930,400 adults, in England in 2015.


The BDA has called for robust oral health needs assessments to inform local and national commissioning decisions, as well as increased investment in community dental services (CDS) to reduce such oral health inequalities.


Chair of the BDA's England Community Dental Services Committee, Charlotte Waite, said: 


"For too long, the oral health needs of people with learning disabilities have taken a back seat. 


"They experience a double whammy with high rates of poor oral health and genuine problems accessing dental services they desperately need.


"Part of the problem is that commissioning decisions to cater for the needs of these patients are often inadequate because they are not informed by robust oral health needs assessments. The situation is exacerbated by an ever-decreasing number of dentists in community dental services. If we are serious about addressing the oral health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities, there must be increased investment in CDS.


"That being said, this practical guidance, with lots of helpful case studies and examples of good practice, should help to reduce oral heath inequalities by making dental services more accessible."


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