Oral care and people with learning disabilities

Gov Guidance: Oral care and people with learning disabilities


Good oral health is an important factor in people’s general health and quality of life. The evidence shows that people with learning disabilities have poorer oral health and more problems in accessing dental services than people in the general population. People with learning disabilities may need additional help with their oral care and support to get good dental treatment because of cognitive, physical and behavioural factors.

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. This might include making practical adjustments to the environment or changes in the process. This guidance signposts resources that can be used to support people with learning disabilities with their oral care. There are strategies that can be used to help reduce anxiety and better prepare people for dental treatment, such as desensitisation. There is a need for training and education for people with learning disabilities, their family carers and supporters and dental professionals and this report gives examples of how this can be done.

Even with reasonable adjustments in place there may be a need for some people to have a general anaesthetic in order to have a dental examination or treatment. If this is necessary there should be consideration of other, non-dental, interventions that can be done at the same time.