25 June 2024

A new series of resources have been developed aimed at improving the oral health of individuals with special healthcare needs.

The range of infographics and e-learning modules have been developed by the international educator and publisher Wiley in collaboration with a panel of top experts and the International Association for Disability and Oral Health (IADH).

The materials provide a snapshot of the specific characteristics of oral health in these groups, the current state of oral healthcare, and the latest evidence-based guidance on how to improve their oral health.

Around 16 million people in the United Kingdom have a disability. This represents 24% of the total population. Around one in ten people with a disability have complex needs.

Dr William Minston, a dentist and European Director at Oral-B, says: "Patients with disabilities represent a significant portion of our population. Their oral health care needs are diverse and often unique, which underscores the importance of providing healthcare professionals with digestible and easy-to-follow advice.

“Our goal is to empower healthcare professionals with the knowledge and tools they need to provide the best possible care to these individuals, thereby addressing a critical need in our society."

The three e-learning modules take less than 30 minutes to complete and are supplemented with videos, infographics, patient case studies, and a list of peer-reviewed research articles. Upon completion, healthcare professionals will receive a downloadable certificate.

Healthcare professionals are encouraged to utilise these resources in their practice and share them with their colleagues.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Oral health is a key component of overall health and well-being. Patients with disabilities often face barriers with self-care, find it more difficult accessing dental care and report poorer experiences during a dental visit, compared to the general population. These resources are crucial in helping healthcare professionals overcome these challenges and provide optimal care.”

The materials cover advice for improving oral health in individuals with physical impairments, intellectual and developmental disabilities and those with special healthcare needs.

Resources for the patient and caregiver have also been created.

"Providing accessible information to patients with disabilities and their caregivers is a key part of effective care,” adds Dr Minston.

“Chairside recall can be challenging due to the complexity of the situation. That's why we've developed these resources. They can be printed off and taken home, serving as a valuable reference in a familiar environment. This allows patients and caregivers to review the information at their own pace.

“Additionally, these resources can be shared via email, ensuring that patients have access to the information they need between appointments. It's about empowering patients and caregivers with knowledge, enabling them to take an active role in maintaining good oral health."

The resources are available on the Wiley website at Oral Health in Individuals with Special Healthcare Needs (wiley.com)