Make good oral health accessible

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  Posted by: Dental Design      17th January 2023

Every patient deserves a life free from the burden of oral diseases. However, there are certain groups within society that are at a higher risk of oral health-related complications. As a dental professional, it is always important to recognise the factors that can predispose certain patients to oral health risks and tailor your care accordingly.

How can disabilities affect oral health?

According to the Family Resources Survey, between 2020 and 2021, 14.6 million people were reported to be disabled.[i] The Oral Health Foundation states that mobility impairments make up 57% of those registered as disabled in the UK, while 28% experience challenges with dexterity.[ii] Those with disabilities were reported to have poorer access to healthcare than those without a disability, with the main barriers being transportation, cost and long waiting lists.[iii]

Within your daily work, you will treat many patients who have a variety of different needs and requirements. Those with physical and learning disabilities face more problems when maintaining a thorough oral hygiene routine at home – studies have confirmed that people with learning disabilities are at risk of significantly worse oral health issues compared to the general population. [iv] [v] A report found that one in three adults with a learning disability have poor teeth and gums.[vi] Individuals with motor impairments are also at risk – one study associated Parkinson’s disease and poor motor skills with caries, periodontitis and tooth loss.[vii] Patients with cerebral palsy are also thought to have an increased risk of tooth wear, bruxism and caries.[viii]

As you are well aware, a basic oral hygiene routine must include twice-daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and daily interdental cleaning, which has traditionally been with floss. However, these methods of dental hygiene do require adequate dexterity in order for the mouth to be sufficiently cleaned. As such, the dental team need a unique approach to care for those who are disabled, ensuring that they and/or their carers fully understand how to break down these barriers and maintain excellent oral hygiene.

Bridge the gap

As you will have found in your day-to-day practice, every situation is different and will require a diversified approach – what works for one patient may not work for another. Communication, an already vital tool within dentistry, is key here to ascertain the needs of your patients who require tailored care. It is important to not only include the patient in this line of communication, but also their carer, if they have one. Be mindful to address your patient rather than the person who accompanies them to the appointment, but do ensure that the carer is able to ask questions and establish how they can best assist the patient.

If your patient finds using a toothbrush challenging, electric options are thought to improve the experience for those with limited/poor dexterity – a study found that for patients with a neuromuscular disability, an electric toothbrush helped to significantly improve their plaque status and was considered a favourable method for maintaining oral health.[ix] There are also devices such as finger brushes and mouthpiece brushes for patients who cannot handle or tolerate electric toothbrushes. For interdental cleaning, flossing might be impossible for many patients who have a disability. As you know, keeping the gums clear of food debris and bacteria is a vital step in the prevention of gingival diseases, and so recommending a way that patients can do this with ease is paramount.

You could consider recommending the use of a water flosser – this solution has proven itself an efficient tool in removing interdental plaque.[x] The Waterpik® Water Flosser is backed by 60 years of innovation and is ideal for individuals who struggle with interdental cleaning. The Waterpik® Water Flosser has been clinically proven to remove up to 99.9% of plaque from treated areas[xi] and is up to 50% more effective for improving gum health vs. string floss.[xii] This solution is also accessible and takes only a minute a day to use. Recommend a Waterpik® Water Flosser to your patients and help them take back control over their oral hygiene routine.

Good oral health for all  

It goes without saying that good oral hygiene can greatly improve the quality of one’s life. Many disabilities can prevent an individual from maintaining a thorough oral care routine at home – the dental team play a pivotal role in ensuring they can adequately care for their mouth, teeth and gums, and enjoy the benefits that good dental health can offer.

For more information on Waterpik® Water Flosser products visit Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.

Join the 3,000+ dental teams who have already benefitted from a professional Waterpik® Lunch & Learn. Book your free session for 1 hour of verifiable CPD and a free Waterpik® Water Flosser – available either face to face or as a webinar – at 



Andrea Hammond is a Dental Hygienist and Waterpik Professional Educator. Andrea has worked in dentistry since 1996, first qualifying as a dental nurse in 1998 – the same year in which she secured a place on the very first dental therapy cohort at the Eastman Dental Hospital. Following this, she was awarded diplomas in both dental hygiene and dental therapy in the year 2000, and became an active member of the GDC fitness to practice panel since 2015. Today, she continues to share knowledge as a Professional Educator for Waterpik and be deeply involved in the industry as a Regional Group Representative for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT).


[i] GOV.UK. (n.d.). Family Resources Survey: financial year 2020 to 2021. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[ii] Oral Health Foundation. (n.d.). Oral health and physical disabilities. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[iii] Sakellariou, D. and Rotarou, E.S. (2017). Access to healthcare for men and women with disabilities in the UK: secondary analysis of cross-sectional data. BMJ Open, [online] 7(8), p.e016614. Available at: [Accessed 2 Sep. 2022].

[iv] Wilson, N.J., Lin, Z., Villarosa, A. and George, A. (2018). Oral health status and reported oral health problems in people with intellectual disability: A literature review. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, [online] 44(3), pp.292–304. Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[v] Kelly, G. (2020). How do intellectual disabilities affect oral health? Evidence-Based Dentistry, [online] 21(1), pp.26–27. Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[vi] Dental health among adults with learning disabilities in England. (2017). Public Health England. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 2 Sep. 2022].

[vii] García-De-La-Fuente, AM., Lafuente-Ibáñez-de-Mendoza, I., Lartitegui-Sebastián, MJ., Marichalar-Mendia, X., Echebarria-Goikouria, MÁ. and Aguirre-Urizar, JM. (2022). Facts and controversies regarding oral health in Parkinson’s disease: A case-control study in Spanish patients. Medicina Oral Patología Oral y Cirugia Bucal, [online] pp.e419–e425. Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[viii] Lansdown, K., Irving, M., Mathieu Coulton, K. and Smithers‐Sheedy, H. (2021). A scoping review of oral health outcomes for people with cerebral palsy. Special Care in Dentistry, [online] 42(3), pp.232–243. Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[ix] Ikeda, T., Yoshizawa, K., Takahashi, K., Ishida, C., Komai, K., Kobayashi, K. and Sugiura, S. (2015). Effectiveness of electric toothbrushing in patients with neuromuscular disability: A randomized observer-blind crossover trial. Special Care in Dentistry, [online] 36(1), pp.13–17. Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[x] Lyle, D.M., Goyal, C.R., Qaqish, J.G. and Schuller, R. (2016). Comparison of Water Flosser and Interdental Brush on Plaque Removal: A Single-Use Pilot Study. The Journal of clinical dentistry, [online] 27(1), pp.23–26. Available at: [Accessed 1 Sep. 2022].

[xi] Biofilm Removal with a Dental Water Jet – Gorur A, Lyle DM, Schaudinn C, Costerton JW. Compend Contin Ed Dent 2009; 30 (Suppl 1):1 – 6.

[xii] The Effect of Interdental Cleaning Devices on Plaque Biofilm and Gingival Bleeding – Rosema NAM et al. The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. J Int Acad Periodontol 2011; 13(1):2-10.

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