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Stories at the Dentist: Identifying communication issues in special care dentistry settings

Research Stream
  • Rachel Menzies (University of Dundee)
  • Daniel Herron (University of Dundee)
  • Ruth Freeman (University of Dundee)
  • Annalu Waller (University of Dundee)
  • Lesley Scott (NHS)

For people with special needs, communicating at the dentist can be difficult. We are investigating the issues faced by patients with intellectual and/or communication difficulties (ICD) and dental staff. The aim of the project is to identify whether a tablet computer application can be designed to reduce anxiety in patients, and by extension dental professionals, by increasing their understanding of dental healthcare and supporting an interaction between these participant groups.


Observations of dental interactions and treatments involving users with ICD. Interviews with dental healthcare professionals. Design workshops involving users with ICD.


Studies have identified a number of issues concerning the visit of individuals with severe ICD to the dentist. These issues have informed the design of a technology system to support effective communication between dental professionals and patients with ICD. We will present the findings of the observations of dental interactions and report on the early design of a prototype of the application, giving details of how the design was developed through continual user involvement.


Visiting the dentist is a difficult experience for all patient groups, but can be a particularly anxious time for individuals with ICD. This project has observed dental interactions and has developed an early application to improve communication between dentists and patients.

Level of Session 
Age Group 
All Ages