Countering the poor oral health of people with intellectual and developmental disability: a scoping literature review.

Peer-reviewed article
(2019 Nov) BMC Public Health, 19 1530


Wilson NJ, Lin Z, Villarosa A, Lewis P, Philip P, Sumar B, George A



People with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) have poor oral health and need support to maintain optimal oral health outcomes. Little is known about how, when and where to intervene for this population. Thus the aim of this review was to summarise the existing evidence surrounding improving oral health outcomes for people with IDD.


A scoping literature review was conducted focusing on 'oral health' and 'intellectual disability'. Systematic searches of five electronic databases were conducted in line with the study aims and two authors independently examined all records for relevance, with consensus achieved by a third author.


A small number of approaches and interventions were identified to support people with IDD to independently maintain optimal oral hygiene. Identified studies highlighted that caregivers play a vital role in the provision of oral health support, emphasising the effectiveness of educational interventions for caregivers. However, there was uncertainty regarding the efficacy of specific tooth brushing interventions for people with IDD. In cases of more severe IDD and/or dental-related behavioural problems, dental treatment under general anaesthesia was often both a necessary and effective method of oral health care provision. The findings also identified outreach and exclusive oral health services as successful strategies for increasing the limited access of people with IDD to oral care services.


A uniform approach to supporting oral health for people with IDD is unlikely to succeed. A system-based approach is needed to address the diverse needs of the population of people with IDD, their caregivers and service context. Further high quality evidence is required to confirm these findings.