Manchester research assesses dental and oral care needs of adults living with a learning disability

The findings from a Manchester study exploring the oral health needs and experiences of nearly 400 people with learning disabilities and their carers has been published in the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities (JARID).

The study was collaboration between local community based adult learning disability services across Manchester.  The research found that numerous factors affect the standard of daily dental and oral care for adults with learning disabilities and a cross cutting organisational approach is required by community learning disability and dental services, caregivers and people with learning disabilities.

Factors affecting dental and oral hygiene for adults living with a learning disability will vary depending on the person’s range of physical and neurological capabilities. For example a person living with apraxia and articulation disorders may have a limited range of oral motor functions such as difficulty controlling lips, tongue and jaw muscles. For others; health problems such as gastroesophageal reflux may increase the risk of dental erosion. A person with significant cognitive impairments may not understand the importance of regular brushing and oral tactile sensitivity may also increase reluctance to engage with tooth brushing and other oral health activities, such as flossing.

A personalised and multi service approach, along with good communication and understanding of needs is required to enable people with intellectual disabilities access to quality dental and oral care in the UK.