Special needs dentistry

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Special needs dentistry, also known as special care dentistry, is a specialty of dentistry concerned with the oral health of people who have intellectual disability, or who are affected by other medical, physical, or psychiatric issues.[1]

Special needs dentists require an extra three years of postgraduate training after attaining their dental degree. They are then eligible for Board Certification by the American Board of Special Care Dentistry (Diplomate ABSCD) or Fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (FRACDS (SND)).

Patients who require special needs dentistry form a diverse group, and may be found living at home, in hospital, in secure units, in residential or nursing homes, or they may be homeless or vulnerably housed. Their additional needs may be due directly to their impairment or disability, or to some aspect of their medical history that affects their oral health, or because their social, environmental or cultural context disables them with reference to their oral health.[2]

In the UK[edit]

Special Care Dentistry (SCD) is the thirteenth and most recent dental specialty to be approved by the UK General Dental Council (GDC). To date there are 73 specialists on the GDC specialist list.[3] NHS consultant posts in Special Care Dentistry have been set up in some areas of the UK.

UK specialists in SCD, and dentists with a special interest in SCD, may work in NHS or private general practice, NHS community/salaried dental services or hospital dental services. People with impairments or disabilities who require Special Care Dentistry may seek a special care dentist by contacting their local healthcare provider (e.g. Primary Care Trust) or by obtaining a referral from, for example, their general medical or dental practitioner. Most SCD services have referral criteria which specify which groups of people they will accept for dental treatment.

Specialist training programmes are currently being introduced across the UK to provide training in SCD leading to admission onto the GDC specialist list. Postgraduate qualifications in SCD are available from institutions such as the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and King’s College London Dental Institute.[4] There are also post-qualification courses available in SCD for Dental Care Professionals such as dental nurses, hygienists and therapists.


  1. ^ A case of need: proposal for a specialty in Special Care Dentistry Joint Advisory Committee for Special Care Dentistry (2003)
  2. ^ Dougall A. and Fiske J. (2008) Access to special care dentistry, British Dental Journal 204 pp 605-616
  3. ^ General Dental Council, accessed 6 October 2009.
  4. ^ Specialist Advisory Committee in Special Care Dentistry (2007) Training Programme in Special Care Dentistry PDF

External links[edit]