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New App For Dental Patients With Learning Difficulties

  • Providing dental treatment to people with learning difficulties can often prove problematic, for the dentist and the patient alike. A new app developed by scientists recently seeks to help people with learning difficulties to prepare for difficult dental visits.

    By Rebecca Callard

Whilst searching for the latest iPhone app recently I came across an article promoting an app aimed at helping people with learning difficulties prepare for a visit to the dentist. Intrigued, I read further and learnt that dental phobia can affect people of all ages, with different backgrounds, from all walks of life, but that the phobia can be heightened in those with learning difficulties. 

What I hadn’t considered previously was that preparation and communication can ease the anxiety some of us feel about our dental visits. This phobia, which can often be more prevalent in people with learning or communication difficulties such as autism, can be eased by better communication between patient and dentist. Scottish scientists have developed the app to help children and adults with learning and communication difficulties do just that.

How the app works:

The app is designed to be a tool, used by both dental professionals and dental patients, by “tagging” parts of stories listed on the app which make the patient feel particularly anxious. The “tags” can then be discussed between the patient and dentist to ensure there is an understanding between them as to the treatment that is going to be provided etc. The creators of the app hope this will make treatment more successful and some treatment less likely to be abandoned as a result of stress or anxiety of the patient.

The app can also store more individual information about a particular patient, including their likes or dislikes, their hobbies or personal interests, or how best to communicate with that person.

Potential benefits:

It is hoped the app will give dental patients a greater say over their treatment and overall engage them in a more positive experience of their visits to the dentist.

An NHS dentist, Leslie Scott, commented on the app:

“As a dentist, it is often difficult to know what an individual’s specific abilities, needs and concerns are, and to keep track of these between appointments. By facilitating communication the app has the potential to make dental care a much less stressful experience for this group of patients and clinicians providing their care. This will undoubtedly result in improved dental health and well-being for these patients. Enabling patients to be involved as fully as possible in decisions concerning their care is our professional responsibility and we should make use of all available technology to ensure this.”

As a dental negligence lawyer I act for dental patients who have suffered injury as a result of negligent dental treatment, and often find that poor communication between the Dentist and patient can be a factor in such cases.  New apps are coming to the market each day, but I think this app could really open the gateway of communication between dentists and their patients, particularly those with dental phobias and/or learning or communication difficulties, to make the experience a less stressful one, and this can only be a good thing. 

If you have concerns about dental treatment you have received and would like advice on making a claim, please contact me or one of my colleagues for further advice.


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