Disabled Children’s Experiences and Perceptions of Oral Health and Services
Numerous studies have examined the oral health of disabled children and have found significant dental care needs in comparison with the general population. Nevertheless, there is a scarcity of research evidence from the perspectives of disabled children because their views usually excluded from oral health research. This study takes a rights-based approach and aims to give disabled children a voice by exploring their perspectives and experiences of oral health and dental services.
This was an ethnographic study. A purposive sample of ten children with a range of disabilities attending special schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, participated. Participant observation, interviewing and a range of creative techniques were used including pictures, games, and guided tours to stimulate the children’s responses. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.
Emergent main themes were disabled children’s knowledge and their experiences of oral health and dental care. Participants displayed a basic knowledge of oral health practices and dietary choices derived from different sources of oral health information. They understood the dentist role, the significance of attending, and were familiar with a range of dental procedures. Children also described their experiences when visiting the dental clinic, the physical barriers they experienced and their positive and negative feelings about oral health care.
Conclusions: Using creative and pluralistic methods enabled disabled children to explain in detail their knowledge and experiences of oral health and services. The study highlights that including children with a range of disabilities in oral health research is possible, but researchers need to be creative and be able to work in partnership with the children. More oral health research needs to include disabled children as participants and work with them as collaborators with the aim reducing oral health inequalities.