Hello, I’m Charlotte and I work as a senior community dentist, and I am a representative for the British Dental Association, a professional organisation for dentists in the UK.
Some dental patients get referred to the community dental service (CDS) if they aren’t able to go see their high-street dentist (also known as general dental practitioners) for a specific reason or clinical need.
CDS dentists often have more time for a patient’s appointments, and it can really help those who are anxious, or need some extra time to help explain what is going to happen during the appointment and to talk about how to keep your teeth healthy.
But we know many people with learning disabilities – both adults and children – may choose to visit a high street dentist if they can. One advantage is that it is probably nearer to your home, so it can be much easier to get to your appointment and also you might be able to attend at the same time as other family members.
We also know dentists are not always the most loved of health professionals! Many people have a reluctance or anxiety about going to the dentist. But we really are welcoming, and friendly, and modern dental techniques mean most treatments today are pain free. We want to encourage all patients to come and see us regularly, if possible – we know that prevention is always better than cure.
Your dentist, and other members of the dental team, can help advise on the best way to look after your teeth, good techniques for brushing and advice about diet too.
During Learning Disability Awareness Week (14-20 June 2021), we are working with Health Education England, Makaton Ambassador Amanda Glennon, and Helen Laverty MBE from Positive Choices to help raise awareness of what it’s like for someone with a learning disability to visit the dentist. We really wanted to show how that experience can be a positive one, with the aid of some simple communications tools and Makaton.
"The dentist project has been a true together we are better
whirlwind to be part of! From the original idea to asking for help to
launch took about 12 weeks – just goes to show what we can achieve when
we pull together! #TeamSmile" Helen Laverty MBE, Professional lead for LD nursing at the University of Nottingham
I play the part of the dentist in the film below, and Gary, an actor with the MiXit theatre group, plays my patient. Prior to filming Gary told me he was a bit nervous about sitting in the dental chair. But I reassured him I would not actually be doing any treatment, just having a look at his mouth and helping to show him how to brush.
After the filming, I was really delighted to get a message from Gary’s mum saying: “He really enjoyed it and it’s helped encourage him to go to the dentist and getting used to sitting on the proper chair.”
Makaton prompt cards
During LD Week (and beyond), we are asking dentists and their teams to download and use these new free Makaton prompt cards, so they can use them in their dental practice. We know that good communication is one of the things that can make a dental visit more positive for all our patients.
There is also information on caring for your teeth at home, with the Makaton signs and symbols, and a chart that helps remind you to brush twice a day.
The free Makaton download can be found in the Makaton Library (Free Resources > Health).