Today marks World Oral Health Day (WOHD) which is celebrated globally every year on the 20th March. WOHD is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health aiming to promote positive messages about good oral hygiene practices and demonstrating the importance of oral health in our general health and well-being.
Supporting good oral health is an important part of promoting good health and quality of life for people with learning disabilities. However research shows that people with learning disabilities have higher levels of gum disease and numbers of missing teeth, which can lead to pain and discomfort that may be difficult for the individual to communicate clearly.
There may be a variety of reasons including physical and behavioural difficulties that impact on someone’s ability to undertake daily oral care and cope with visits to the dentist, these include:
- not understanding the importance of tooth brushing or forgetting to do it
- limited mobility that can make it difficult to brush teeth physically
- sensory impairments that mean someone doesn’t like being touched
- behaviours that makes it hard for someone to support oral care
An individual with a learning disability may not understand the importance of keeping a healthy mouth and this can prove difficult for carers to try to get the individual to engage with a healthy day-to-day tooth brushing routine.
There are several things that can be done to help with this including;
- providing opportunities for the individual to learn about their oral health that take into account any communication difficulties. Plain English or Easy Read literature can be accessed which is specifically targeted at people with learning disabilities
- be aware of how the individual communicates pain or discomfort. Being sensitive to changes in behaviour or well-being that indicate pain, illness or unhappiness can be key to helping diagnose the source of pain for someone with severe learning and communication difficulties
- the time of a dental appointment can be crucial to its success. Some individuals may rely heavily on routine and may need appointments at a particular time of day with regular prompts on what is happening and when
Further information about good oral health and supporting an individual with a daily tooth brushing routine can be found from the following sources:
#UniteForMouthHealth #WOHD20 #WorldOralHealthDay