Sensory Equipment - Dental Special Needs Patients - Barts Charity

Sensory equipment helps make a trip to the dentist less stressful for patients with special needs

Patients in the Special Care Dentistry department at The Royal London Hospital have been able to feel more at ease using sensory items including weighted blankets and viewing images projected onto the wall, all designed to help reduce anxiety.

  • Date: January 18, 2024

Reducing anxiety in an unfamiliar setting

For most people, a trip to the dentist isn’t exactly an enjoyable experience, but for those patients with special needs it can be even more confusing and stressful.
Through our Everyday Impact funding scheme, we’ve funded sensory equipment for The Royal London Hospital Special Care Dentistry department. This includes weighted blankets, an interactive table and a projector, specifically designed to help reduce anxiety and act as a distraction in an unfamiliar setting.
Feedback from both staff and patients has been incredible. The weighted blankets – designed to help reduce stress – have been a particular favourite of those patients with learning disabilities, autism and dementia.
“The blanket was really helpful. I am on the autism spectrum and definitely have heighted tactile awareness – I didn’t think it would be available at the dentist. I was really nervous about the extraction but this helped to calm me down.”
Patient at The Royal London Dental Hospital

This is what the weighed blankets look like on a patient.

Helping staff provide better care

Because all of the equipment is portable, patients have been able to take them when being seen by other departments, allowing other teams to also see the benefits.

One staff member noted that a patient “had never had any dental treatment before, so suddenly being faced with the need to have multiple teeth removed was not something he or his family felt very confident about. The patient had a wonderful imagination, so we were able to combine this with the underwater scene from the projector cast on to the wall in front of the dental chair with the lights turned low. This worked as a great distraction and significantly reduced his anxiety, such that we were able to carry out all extractions in a single visit.”

“He left feeling very proud of himself, and his family were politely surprised with the outcome.”

A projector casts calming underwater scenes in front of the patient to further help reduce anxiety.

Reducing anxiety helps staff to look after patients and their needs effectively. This also reduces the need for subsequent visits.
Staff at the Special Care Dentistry department are so grateful for the support of the Everyday Impact funding scheme:
“We see some of the most vulnerable patients in the dental hospital with very diverse needs, and this equipment will stand us in a good position for many years to come - it is much appreciated and valued by our team.”
Special Care Dentistry staff member

Learn more about the Everyday Impact funding scheme

Everyday Impact