Oral health: A neglected issue

Bandana Khadka’s experience as a dentist and case manager inspired a research project to improve oral health of people living with disabilities

Some gaps in healthcare, although large, are not always easy to see.

For NDIS case manager Bandana Khadka, her background as a registered Dentist in her home country of Nepal, enabled her to identify significant levels of poor oral health among her clients living with disabilities.

“When I bring up oral health with my clients, I notice that its’s something that’s always neglected.”

A client with an intellectual disability who was from CALD background, went to visit a Dentist on Bandana’s advice, only to discover severe periodontal disease requiring extractions and a long-term treatment plan.

“The client had trouble communicating his pain due to the impact of his disability, and the family simply wasn’t aware of the importance of oral health, let alone the supports and referral pathways available to them.”

This was one of many experiences that motivated Bandana to combine her expertise in oral health and disability support into a PhD with La Trobe Rural Health School.

Bandana’s research aims to understand the oral health status of people with disabilities through interviews and surveys about their lived experiences.

This will support Bandana to design and deliver a health promotion intervention, which will be evaluated to understand its efficacy and further challenges.

With a background as a public health researcher, working alongside Deakin University’s Professor Catherine Bennett, Bandana’s research will also provide recommendations based on current gaps in legislation, policy and practice.

Ultimately, Bandana hopes her research will give more attention to a neglected issue.

“People with disabilities and their families need assistance to know more about the services and supports currently available and how to talk about oral health concerns in a safe and trusting environment.”

“This also means building the capability of non-dental practitioners and case workers to provide basic oral health advice and referrals.”

“When we talk about health, we have to talk about oral health too.”

If you are a person with a disability or care for someone with a disability and would like to share your experiences on oral health, please contact Bandana on b.khadka@latrobe.edu.au