The study, which is the first of its kind for dentistry, consulted people with a wide range of learning difficulties with the aim of representing their previously unheard voices within dental research.
The research, which was funded by NHS Sheffield, highlighted a number of issues including the need for appropriate oral health information to be developed for both individuals and their carers and comprehensive disability awareness training for dental students, dentists and dental care professionals.
In light of the research, NHS Sheffield has already begun implementing recommendations from the study; and the curriculum of the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield has been reviewed to improve teaching on this subject.
Lead author Dr Janine Owens, from the University of Sheffield´s School of Clinical Dentistry, said: “It must be stressed that dental services for people with learning disabilities in Sheffield are very good, however there are some modifications that we were able to recommend to ensure they meet the needs expressed by people with learning disabilities.
“It is hoped that this study has now opened the pathway for working in partnership with people with learning difficulties regarding oral health care, and service improvements can now be made with their guidance.”
Dr Owens added: “I hope that the study will bring a raised level of awareness amongst dentists and dental care professionals about the needs of people with learning difficulties. This improved awareness should lead to people being treated as individuals with unique wants and needs.”
Kate Jones, the director of dental public health at NHS Sheffield said: “This has been an important piece of work for us as we want to make sure that dental services are accessible for everyone across Sheffield. It was pleasing to see that the University felt we already have very good services for people with learning disabilities, however, we are committed to putting in place further recommendations from the report to make services even better.”
Notes for Editors: The study was conducted by Dr Janine Owens, Dr Zoe Marshman and Dr Melanie Hall from the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield. The research was made possible thanks to key partners: NHS Sheffield, Aden, Intake, and Wardsend self-advocacy groups, Mencap, Signpost Sheffield, the Sheffield People´s Parliament, Learning Disability Partnership Board and Learning Disability Case Register.
For more information about the School of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Sheffield visit School of Clinical Dentistry
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