Learning Disabilities and Autism



Health Education England has collaborated on a short film highlighting the experience of someone with a learning disability visiting the dentist, available via YouTube.

The film features Charlotte, Senior Community Dentist and Chair of the BDA’s England Community Dental Services Committee (ECSDC), and Gary, an actor with a learning disability who is part of the MiXit theatre group.

Makaton is a unique language programme that uses symbols, signs, alongside speech to enable people to communicate more effectively. All people with a learning disability should have the support they need to access dental care and this tool can be used to support communication in day- to-day practise.


What can dentists do to help?

Many patients are anxious about visiting the dentist, and research has shown that those with learning disabilities also face extra barriers to dental care, including communications barriers, access problems, anxiety, sensory overload and the concerns of carers or their families, and some of these have been thrown into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are encouraging all dentists and dental team members to download a new free set of Makaton prompt cards to help break down barriers to communications for dental patients.

To access the resource, visit the Makaton Library – create a free login and search for ‘Your dental appointment’  



Breaking down barriers to care – Your dental appointment – A positive choice

In conjunction with Learning Disability week 2021, we worked with partners to produce a video to outline the steps you can take to provide a positive experience for dental patients. You can also find out more on the British Dental Association website:


Please click here for useful links and resources for learning disabilities and autism