Oral Health

LAST UPDATED: 21/11/2017

Keeping teeth clean and maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most important things you can do for the person you are caring for. Healthy teeth are vital for eating and speaking properly, and for overall well-being.

We all know that daily cleaning can help to stop problems developing, and is much less painful, expensive and stressful that treating conditions that have been allowed to progress. But how do you help a person with learning disabilities to manage daily care, and what do you do when you need professional help?

We have gathered together some tips and contacts from our community of jwebbers – if you have any useful tips or information you would like to add to this page please contact us. Jweb is all about sharing, so if something has helped you, please pass it on!

Read our blog by Brooke Zaidman BDS, MFDS, Specialty Trainee in Special Care Dentistry...

Brooke shares her tips and advice on supporting a person with learning disabilities to care for their teeth at home, and how to find the services you might need to access.

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Advice from the dentist…

We interviewed Jeremy Kaufman BDS MSc, specialist in Children’s Dentistry. You can contact him at:

Mr Dentist Children’s Practice
7 North End Road
London NW11 7RJ
Tel: 020 8458 4455
Email: mrdentist@lineone.net

Community Health Service 

This is targeted at those who are not seen by a local/private/hospital practice. Health workers, schools and doctors can all make referrals to the community dental health service. Often the community dental health service conducts screenings at schools and can make further appointments for the patient. Family dentists will refer patients to the community dental service if they cannot treat the patient in their own surgery. The local health authority contracts practitioners to provide services for people with special needs in their community. You can contact the CHS for your area directly if you need help finding a suitable dentist.

Preparing for an appointment 

• Ask your dentist for tips and ideas.
• Modelling – watch a sibling have a check up.
• Ask the dentist to ‘give a prize’.
• Set up a play session in the waiting room and incorporate a ‘meet and greet’ session with the people working at the surgery.
• Make an initial appointment to see the dentist without the person you are caring for so that you can discuss their needs in advance.
• Don’t make a big deal out of the appointment and make it sound positive.
• The first examination should be short and easy – just counting teeth for example.
• Regular check ups will reinforce that the visit is a positive experience and the examination period can be extended gradually.

What if the person you are caring for needs major work?

• Oral sedation (e.g. tablets) - can be unpredictable
• Inhalation methods - can be difficult because the patient must be able to understand and follow instructions
• Intravenous sedation – is rare for children. An anaesthetist must be present which can be difficult to arrange in a local dentist practice.
• General anaesthetic – necessary for extractions and major renovations of teeth. These are usually performed as a day case in hospital.

There are no hard and fast rules – each case is considered individually.

At home

• Cleaning – persevere! Try changing the experience regularly by introducing different novelty toothbrushes. Try electric ones for more thorough and quicker cleaning, although some people do not like the vibrations they cause. Experiment with the size of the grip. Think about the position of the person in relation to you and the brush; propped in a reclining position with you sitting behind their head (also good practice for sitting in a dentist chair!) can be more relaxing than sitting upright.
• Diet – many problems can be avoided if sugar and fizzy drinks are limited, especially in between meals.

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Some contacts recommended by members of our jweb community...

David Sher: 68 Southover, Woodside Park, London, N12 7HB, tel: 020 8445 6949 or 07831 256215

Dr Sonny Oke: Novocare Dental, 32 The Avenue, Watford, WD17 4NS, tel: 01923 817942 www.the-watford-dentist.co.uk

Malcolm Levinkind: 30 Fortis Green, East Finchley, London N2 9EL, etl: 020 8444 3413 www.drlevinkind.com

Eastman dental hospital: http://www.uclh.nhs.uk/ourservices/ourhospitals/edh/Pages/Home.aspx

Guy’s dental hospital: http://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/our-services/dental/overview.aspx

King’s College Dental Hospital: https://www.kch.nhs.uk/patientsvisitors/patients/dental-patients

Mill Hill Dental Clinic: Hartley Avenue, London, NW7 2HX, tel: 020 8959 3005. http://www.clch.nhs.uk/locations/mill-hill-clinic.aspx

Ambitious about Autism have a practice dental room their Tree House school at The Pears National Centre for Autism Education
, Woodside Avenue, 
London, 
N10 3JA where a dentist comes in and does a role play to help with the experience. http://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/page/treehouse_school/teachingandlearning/dentistry.cfm

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Useful Links:

Try the Dentrust three-sided toothbrush: http://www.dentrust.com 

Ambitious about Autism have a range of topics covering dental care: https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/search/google/dentist

Scope has an excellent collection of tips from parents and carers: https://community.scope.org.uk/tips/teeth

What’s available on the NHS? http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/dentists/Pages/community-dental-services.aspx

The British Dental Health Foundation has a leaflet called “Dental Care for People with Special Needs”, which you can view online https://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/caring-for-teeth/dental-care-for-people-with-special-needs

Dental Fear Central also offers information on dealing with dental fears, phobias and anxiety. This includes articles and tips from dentists with a special interest in dental phobia and dental anxiety management. http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears/special-needs/

A guide to options available to ensure that you have full access to dental care and treatment: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/dental-care-for-disabled-people

The Community Dental Service in Bedfordshire has an excellent range of easy read information: https://communitydentalservices.co.uk/leaflets/easy-read/

The British Society for Disability and Oral Health provide a number of resources and information packs for patients and carers: https://www.bsdh.org/index.php/oral-health-resources

As recommended by one of our readershttp://www.dentalcenter-in.com/overcoming-fear-dentist/

Books Beyond Words produce a wide range of books for people with learning disabilities. Try Going to the Dentist.

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Please remember, jweb is not responsible for the information provided or any of the services suggested.