Supporting the oral health of people with intellectual disability: A survey of disability staffs' knowledge, perceptions, disability service barriers, and training

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Disability and Health Journal


Background: People with intellectual disabilities experience poorer oral health outcomes, which can negatively impact their quality of life. Disability support staff who support peoplewith an intellectual disability have the potential to assist with oral hygiene. However, there is limited understanding of the current practices of disability support staff around oral health, particularly in Australia. Objective: To describe disability support staff knowledge about oral health, explore their practice perceptions when supporting people with intellectual disabilities around oral health and their experiences of oral health training. Methods: A national cross-sectional survey was undertaken with 156 disability support staff across Australia. Recruitment was via publicly available websites of disability services and social media. Results: Disability staff were generally knowledgeable about appropriate oral hygiene practices and risks to oral health. They were less knowledgeable about the links between poor oral health and chronic diseases (<40%) and the importance of oral care for individuals who are fed enterally. Most participants (>80%) felt oral health was an important part of their care and were interested in further oral health training. Staff in semi-assisted living felt they had more time for oral health tasks compared to home-based living and residential facilities (p = 0.007). Lack of oral health training programs was the main barrier cited (44%), with only a quarter receiving any training in this area. Conclusions: Disability support staff are receptive to promoting oral health. More training around oral health and intellectual disability is needed for this workforce to support them in undertaking this role.

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