A questionnaire survey was undertaken in a rural health locality to examine the delivery of dental/oral health care to service users. Results indicate general satisfaction wth dental services, with attendance rates for treatment similar to the general population. However, the majority of clients not receiving dental checks in the previous year lived in formal care settings, suggesting standards were no higher in professional care contexts. A shortfall in NHS provision, poor facilities and financial disincentives created problems of accessing general dental services (GDSs) and placed an increased demand on the community dental service (CDS). Information-exchange between carers and dental personnel, blurring of care responsibilties and low priority afforded oral care were key issues preventing integrated care. Poor knowledge about client dental needs and high dependency levels between carers and clients indicate that training should be initially targeted at community learning disability nurses (CLDNs). Arguably they are best able to detect problems, facilitate access to services and disseminate health information. Recommendations are made for promoting dental/oral health awareness, routine health checks and production of a teaching pack. Further research concerning carer knowledge and attitudes to oral care is indicated. © 2001 Sage Publications.