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Enabling Better Oral Health for All

18 Aug 2023

Toothbrushing skills and annual dental visits are often overlooked especially when everyone is preoccupied with their many daily tasks. While being able to brush your teeth properly may seem like a trivial task, you will be surprised at the level of skill it takes to execute it proficiently. Hence, a dental diary that will assist in charting the progress of toothbrushing skills and serve as a reminder to visit the dentist on one’s birthday are some simple ideas to help one stay on course, especially for those with learning disabilities. This is a continuous effort to improve the communities in which we are involved.


On 12 July 2023, a comprehensive workshop focusing on enhancing oral health was conducted for adults with learning disabilities at the Bloomers Training Center. Collaborating in this endeavour were second year dentistry students from the School of Dentistry.


Before the actual visit, a pre-workshop for the students was conducted to enhance their clinical experience. The workshop provides opportunity for the students to lead and study the best method of assessing the current toothbrushing skills of adults with learning disabilities. They also had an opportunity to have hands-on experience by performing the skills on each other. This allowed them to visualise the programme flow for the day as we simulated the planned activities. After that, the students went to the centre to categorise the learning ability of the adults using a tool advocated by the British Dental Association.


An IMU School of Dentistry alumna, Dr Cheah Kher Huey, who is enthusiastic about community initiatives, also participated in the activity. Dr Cheah commented “I learnt something new today – how to chart the condition of the patient’s teeth manually with the many different symbols on the dental chart. During my study, I was only exposed to computer-based charting.  Learning never ceases!”


During the actual visit, every adult with learning disabilities received a dental package comprising a toothbrush and toothpaste personalised with their names, generously sponsored by Darlie. Additionally, a cup and a dental diary were provided in the kit.

The students actively involved the   participants in this activity by going through the dental diaries filled with personalised content such as the importance of brushing their teeth properly, a toothbrushing chart and even a birthday calendar to remind them to visit the dentist annually. There was a role play on how to brush their teeth properly and a simple video was also played.

Additionally, the adults were taught simple conversational skills on how to make a dental appointment. All of the resources were captured in the dental diary for their own revision.

Subsequently, each adult underwent a dental examination and an evaluation of their current tooth brushing proficiency. It was observed that merely four individuals displayed proficient toothbrushing abilities, while the remaining 17 adults required improvements in this aspect. Following that, a one-to-one supervision of toothbrushing was conducted. Moreover, four highly trainable adults at the home were designated to assist in monitoring the toothbrushing routines of their peers, with the incentive of a reward during the next visit.

A student who was participating in this activity shared “I enjoyed the experience, and I am really glad that I’ve been exposed to this part of the community. And yes, I would focus more on oral hygiene instructions in future clinical sessions as I can see that even though many of them brush their teeth twice a day, they will still miss out some surfaces without knowing the correct method.”

This project enriches the students’ understanding that proper toothbrushing skills are crucial for maintaining oral health, yet only a limited number of individuals can perform it correctly. A continuous evaluation will be required with another visit within the next three months. Thank you to IMU Cares for the opportunities to share our knowledge of oral health with the communities.

Written by Dr Chong Jun Ai

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