How can dentistry better accommodate patients with disabilities?

WelcoMEMervyn Druian discusses why it is important for dentists to cater for their patients with disabilities. 

Why have you decided to introduce the Welcome app into practice?

We heard about Gavin Neate (the founder and CEO of Welcome) and Welcome app through one of our dentists. We have been very impressed with it. Welcome is easy to use and enables patients with disabilities to plan personalised assistance in advance of their arrival. Plus the app is a fantastic staff training tool on disability awareness.

Using the app, disabled patients build and share an accessibility profile. It can inform the practice when they are attending and their specific needs. We receive a notification once the patient is within a mile of the practice, then we can ensure our team are at the door ready to welcome and assist where necessary.

Our team receive real-time training and clear guidance on how to interact with patients directly related to their needs, disabilities or conditions they disclose.

In return they are provided with key up-to-date accessibility and assistance information.

Has it helped improve accessibility?

Definitely. Through the app it tells and educates us about the disability and what the patient may require when they arrive and during their treatment. Plus it assists the disabled person by informing them of any issues the practice may pose. To be prepared is to be forewarned.

With 85% of disabled people living with ‘hidden’ conditions, we might not know of a need until the person declares it when we are face to face.

One of the key elements of the service is the ability to inform staff of need discretely rather than publicly in a sometimes hushed but busy waiting room.

Do you think dentistry as a whole successfully accommodates patients with disabilities? Alongside the app, what more do you think needs to be done?

I think the industry as a whole is improving, however, more can be done. We are the first dental practice in the UK to embrace this innovative app and the dentistry world needs to be more supportive of disabled people with both hidden and visible conditions.

Visiting a dentist is a daunting experience for all and we need to enable dental visits to be as positive and as comfortable as possible. Everyone needs and has a right to dental care. Sometimes the sheer physicality of the practice can create problems. For example, people with physical disabilities may not be able to get in the dental chair or into the practice.

Reduce anxiety

Additionally people with learning disabilities may become overanxious at the thought of going to the dentist or may need extra reassurance.

When people with disabilities have access to layouts of dental practices in advance and also meet the team, it greatly helps to break down barriers and reduce arrival anxiety. Trips to dental practices can be unsettling.

We understand this but with the app we know we can make people more comfortable. Particularly if they see our team as caring and approachable and above all empathetic of their specific needs.

This app goes some way towards making dentistry available to everyone. It puts those with disabilities in the driving seat of their visit.

Do you think this app is important?

I think the app is very important. As I said: ‘Everyone needs and has the right to dental care’ and this app enables that.

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