A new tool to support communication between dentist and patients with intellectual and communication disabilities



Research Stream

  • Rolf Black (University of Dundee)
  • Rachel Menzies (University of Dundee)
  • Daniel Herron (University of Dundee)
  • Sandra Quinn (University of Dundee)
  • Ruth Freeman (University of Dundee)
  • Annalu Waller (University of Dundee)


We describe the development of an iPad application to help people with intellectual and communication disabilities to understand more clearly dental procedures and to improve communication, and thus to reduce anxiety for both patients and clinicians. The aim is to empower patients to be more involved in the decision-making process and to have more control over their own dental care.


A user-centred design philosophy was employed to develop and evaluate an iPad app for use at home and at the dental clinic, to support dental intervention through improved communication. The project involved dental staff, patients and their carers in all stages of development.


Dentists reported on the need for specific information on special needs of their patients which they could access in addition to medical records. The use of Social Stories and the ability to inform the dentist of specific issues and patients’ concerns in advance of an appointment emerged as the main desires for the design of the app.


In a summative evaluation the app was used to support patients and the dentists during routine dental appointments. Feedback from all stakeholders indicated that the app successfully supported communication between dentist and patient.

Level of Session


Age Group

All Ages


Primary school
Secondary school
Special school
Further/Higher Ed.