Consider how you work

Take a moment to reflect on what you currently do to support a person’s healthy mouth and body.

Supporting daily mouth care

Consider what you do to support someone with their mouth care. Is there anything you could do to make this support even better?


If you are a support worker, you might consider:

  • Is daily mouth care happening twice a day? If not, what needs to change to make this happen?
  • How do you know how to best support someone’s daily mouth care? Consider developing an oral health care plan.
  • Doing a task-breakdown assessment to work out which parts of the oral care routine a person can do independently and which parts they need support with.
  • Do the people you support wear dentures? Make sure you know how to care for dentures.
  • How can you support and build independence in a person’s mouth care routine? Could different mouth care tools help?
  • When supporting daily mouth care, be alert to changes in the look or smell of a person’s mouth which might be a sign of oral disease. Could a change in a person’s normal behaviour be due to pain in the mouth? Make an appointment with an oral health professional if you are concerned.

If you are a manager, you might consider:

  • What policy does your organisation have around oral health? If none exists, consider developing an oral health policy or incorporating oral health within another policy.
  • Developing oral health practice guidelines or procedures which clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of the service, staff and clients in maintaining and promoting oral health.
  • How are service users involved in designing their mouth care? Consider working with clients and relevant others to develop an oral health care plan which details their oral care needs and how they like to be supported.
  • What opportunities do staff have to develop skills in supporting daily mouth care? Is basic training provided at induction and other times? Who can staff speak to if they want more information or guidance in supporting mouth care?
  • Do prompts exist for the regular review of each person’s oral health, including care plan reviews and dental visits?
  • Making oral health an agenda item for meetings where client health and wellbeing is discussed.
  • Identifying oral health champions to support any changes to improve oral health in your services.

Supporting a healthy diet

Consider how you can support and encourage people to make tooth-friendly food and drink choices every day.

If you are a support worker, you might consider:

  • How do you and the people you support choose foods for meal and snacks? How well do the choices fit with the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendations? Would it add up to more than 6 teaspoons (approx. 24 grams) of added sugar per day? What are the opportunities to reduce the amount of sugar consumed?
  • How can you support someone to better understand the links between diet and oral health? A quick demonstration of the amount of sugar in soft drink is always an eye opener! See rethinksugarydrink.org.au
  • Do you ever use food or drinks as a reward or incentive? Is there something else you could do instead?
  • Is tap water the drink of choice at your service? Can you encourage others to drink water regularly throughout the day?
  • How do you work to develop and support people’s ability to select healthy foods and prepare healthy meals and snacks?

If you are a manager, you might consider:

  • An audit of foods/drinks provided to assess current practice.
  • Whether the importance of healthy foods and tap water is referenced in policy and how this translates into practice.
  • Does your organisation lead by example, including mostly healthy options when providing food and drink at staff and community events?
  • Who might be able to lead or support any changes to the current practice around food – service users, staff, families, dietitians, other health professionals?
  • How to best use existing fresh fruit and vegetable gardens, or determine interest in developing some.

Change is possible!
According to the 2013 Victorian Population Health Survey for people with an Intellectual Disability, most people with an intellectual disability had a preference for drinking water when they were thirsty. This was a positive change from the previous survey in 2009.

Supporting regular dental check-ups

Consider how you can support and encourage people to have the regular dental check-ups that help them stay healthy.

If you are a support worker, you might consider:

  • Do you encourage the people you support to report any changes in the look or feel of their mouth or dentures? If they are worried for any reason, support them to make an appointment.
  • How do you support someone to use dental services? Do they have a dentist that they see regularly? If not, how can you help them to find the right public or private dental service?
  • How can you work in partnership with the dental team to support positive dental visits? What should the dental clinic know to help them meet a person’s needs?
  • Is a person’s oral health care plan taken to dental visits, discussed and updated?
  • How do you prepare for positive dental visits? For people who are anxious, it can be helpful to start preparing early.

If you are a manager, you might consider:

  • Making sure prompts exist to ensure every client has a regular dental check-up. Strengthen this by including it in the oral health policy.
  • Building and maintaining relationships with local dental clinics (public or private) and including them as part of the team that supports good oral health for clients and staff.
  • Checking that current procedure ensures new clients are asked when they had their last dental check-up and if they have a dentist that they regularly see.
  • Following a dental visit, how is information communicated back to the staff team? Is there a process to update a person’s oral health care plan and feed changes back to staff?
  • When a person is developing an NDIS plan, suggest including line items for visiting the dentist.