Special needs dentistry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Special needs dentistry, also known as special care dentistry, is a speciality 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 typically have additional postgraduate training after attaining their dental degree. These requirements are dependent on the country or other jurisdiction where the dentist is licensed and practicing. Some countries offer Board Certification in special needs dentistry, such as with the American Board of Special Care Dentistry[2] (Diplomate) or the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (FRACDS (SND), Fellowship).

The oral health therapist have incorporated studies to allow for their scope of practice to cover working with people with special needs. They may accompany a dentist with clinic or domiciliary environments to aid in education, disease control and maintenance of patients with special needs.

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.[3]

In Australia and New Zealand[edit]

The Australian Dental Council recognized the specialty of Special Needs Dentistry in November 2003.[4]

Among some of the first countries to establish Special Needs Dentistry as a speciality are Australia and New Zealand. There are now a number of training programs, within both countries, which have been established as pathways into this speciality.[5] This move is advantageous for this area of dentistry, as the workforce is in high demand. Increased training and ongoing support is essential to encourage the provision of care to special needs patients in both conventional and unconventional settings. There are a number of established societies within Australia and New Zealand which provide resources for dental health and other allied health professionals and who advocate for the oral health of people with special needs.

Australian and New Zealand Academy of Special Needs Dentistry[edit]

This academy is a group of specialists who are registered as Special Needs Dental practitioners in both Australia and New Zealand. This organisation was developed with the intent to establish a network for those involved in Special Needs Dentistry in Australia and New Zealand. With the advancement of the speciality they intend to enhance the dental experience for those patients with special needs and through developments in research and advocacy their objective is to enrich these patients' overall quality of life.[6]

Australian Society for Special Care in Dentistry (ASSCID)[edit]

The Australian Society of Special Care in Dentistry was formed in 1997 and currently has 65 representative members within each state and territory of Australia. The objectives of ASSCID include an oral health and special needs educational role for dental professionals and other allied health workers. They act as a resource hub for professionals to obtain information on the special needs patient and how best to formulate care plans. ASSCID supports the need for oral health services for those with special needs and aligns with health promotion programs that focus on people with special needs.[7]

Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Dentistry (ANZSPD)[edit]

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Dentistry was established in 1988. It is a collaboration of two associations, the Australian Society of Dentistry for Children and the New Zealand Society of Dentistry for Children. The society aims to remain dedicated to the research and development of Paediatric Dentistry. The society also has a large focus on dental care for special needs children and avidly support oral health promotion.[8]

Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry (AAPD)[edit]

The Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry was developed in 1990. Striving for the best possible oral health conditions for babies, children and adolescents, including those who have special needs, is one of their main objectives.[9]

Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV)[edit]

The principal public oral health organisation in Victoria, Australia, is Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV). It was founded in 1996 and is a State Government funded initiative that delivers oral health care to Victorian citizens who fit the eligibility criteria. Regarding special needs, the DHSV provides clinical care to patients from the Special Care Unit at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne, via two special dental vans and also through a domiciliary service.

All children enrolled in special or special developmental schools both in urban and rural areas are presented with the opportunity for oral health care at no cost at one or two year intervals.[10]

In the United Kingdom[edit]

Special Care Dentistry (SCD) is the thirteenth and most recent dental speciality to be approved by the United Kingdom General Dental Council (GDC). To date, there are 73 specialists on the GDC specialist list.[11] NHS consultant posts in Special Care Dentistry have been set up in some areas of the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom 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 United Kingdom 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, University College London Eastman Dental Institute and King's College London Dental Institute.[12] There are also post-qualification courses available in SCD for Dental Care Professionals such as dental nurses, hygienists and therapists.

In the United States[edit]

While some countries, such as Australia and the UK, may require 3 years of post-doctoral training of dentists who want to specialize in dental care for the oral health of individuals with special needs conditions, the requirements in the United States are somewhat different. Not all dental schools in the United States offer extensive training in special care dentistry as part of their dental school curriculum. Therefore, dentists who want to treat patients with special needs conditions may choose to complete either a 1-year general practice residency (GPR) or advanced education in general dentistry (AEGD) residency program. A GPR program tends to be associated with a hospital and give the dentist the experience of treating patients with special care needs under general anesthesia. One such example of this specialized training is through Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Program, a Los Angeles County Hospital, in Downey, CA.[13] [14]

Dentists in the United States are not obliged to complete formal post-doctoral residency training because it is not required by local, state, or national governing dental boards. There are various reasons why a dentist does not complete formal post-doctoral residency training, namely, it is not a requirement to practice general dentistry in the United States. However, dentists who desire to treat patients with special needs conditions can still do so with taking continuing education courses. One option to receive training and in-depth special care education is through the organization Special Care Dental Association (SCDA)[15]. This organization also offers American Board Certification in Special Care Dentistry. Whichever path is taken, extra study and training is warranted and beneficial when choosing to care for the oral health of patients with special care conditions.

International Societies[edit]

International Association for Disability and Oral Health (iADH)[edit]

The IADH is an organisation that was developed by individuals in 1971 who have a passion for working within the community to endeavour to improve the overall health and wellbeing of a person with special needs, specifically through enhanced oral health care networks. The association was formerly known as the International Association of Dentistry for the Handicapped, but was altered to its current name to mirror present community ideology.

Every 2 years since the association was established, the IADH runs an international congress in various locations worldwide and has members in over 40 countries.[16]

Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA)[edit]

SCDA was formed through an amalgamation of professionals from the Council of Hospital Dentistry, the Council of Dentistry for People with Disabilities and the Council of Geriatric Dentistry. These originally separate councils made the decision to collaborate due to their analogous objectives and devotion to advocating oral health for those with special needs.

The SCDA is an international association that allows its members the opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills in the area of special needs through educational services, access to resources and networking opportunities. The SCDA promotes for legislations, develops practice guidelines and protocols to enhance oral health professionals’ abilities to deliver quality healthcare to those who need it most.[17]

Academic Journals[edit]

Special Care in Dentistry[edit]

Special Care in Dentistry Association has an official journal titled Special Care in Dentistry. It is an online only publication that provides a comprehensive resource for dental professionals who are interested in learning more via education and interacting with other oral health care professionals. Access to oral healthcare is a key area this publication aims to enhance for patients with special needs.[18]

The Journal of Disability and Oral Health[edit]

Published by the British Society for Disability and Oral Health, The Journal of Disability and Oral Health was founded by the International Association of Disability and Oral Health. The journal's mission is to publish innovative pieces relating to the holistic approach of oral care for a person with special needs. This quarterly journal is an effective modality for the distribution of information for all oral health and other allied health professionals who are concerned with the management and advocacy of oral health for the patient with special needs.[19]

Scope of Practice[edit]


Special Needs Dentists are practitioners that are concerned with the oral health of people severely affected by intellectual or physical disability, experience profound psychiatric or complex medical issues.[20] They provide treatment which includes assessment, diagnosis, treatment, management and preventative services for people of all ages.[21] The post-graduate training of three years exposes them to scenarios in which there are certain obstacles that must be over come to provide the treatment necessary.

A special needs dentists may find it typical to perform procedures under general anaesthetic to ensure that the treatment is adequate and optimal. Although the procedures will not change in steps to achieve final product, it may be more advantageous and safe to complete treatment depending on the individuals needs.

Oral Health Therapist[edit]

Oral health therapists (OHT) are dual qualified as a dental therapist and dental hygienist.[22] They provide oral health assessment, diagnosis, treatment, management and preventive services for children and adolescents and, if educated and trained in a program of study approved by the National Board, for adults of all ages.[22] Their scope may include restorative treatment, tooth removal, oral health promotion, periodontal treatment, and other oral care to promote healthy oral behaviours.[22] Oral health therapists may only work within a structured professional relationship with a dentist or dental specialist.[22] The education requirement for a graduate oral health therapist to be registered is a minimum three year full-time bachelor's degree education program approved by the National Board.[22]

An oral health therapist may aid in performing daily self-maintenance activities for patients who have substantial physical or cognitive limitations, which may hinder their success in major life activities. They have a strong preventive focus and are strongly committed to fostering positive attitudes to oral health.[23] Oral health therapy degrees have incorporated studies to allow their scope of practice to cover working with people with special needs. They may accompany a dentist within clinic or domiciliary environments to aid in education, disease control and maintenance of patients with special needs.

The role of an oral health therapist within any dental practice is multifactorial and involves the fundamentals of oral hygiene instruction, simple restorations, and hygiene treatment. When working with special needs patients the oral health therapists is able to work independently, however when working along a dentist they are able to complete more holistic treatment for the patient.

Training Required to Become a Special Needs Dentist[edit]

Special needs dentistry is a challenging, diverse and rewarding aspect of the dental career to be involved in. Before becoming a special needs dentist there is a range of criteria that has to be met first. Firstly, to become a Special Needs Dentist there needs to be adequate knowledge and skills developed in a bachelor degree to become a general dentist. This can be completed at multiple universities in Australia including:

  • La Trobe University Bendigo
  • The University of Melbourne
  • The University of Adelaide
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Griffith University
  • James Cook University
  • University of Newcastle
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Western Australia[24]

or in New Zealand at the University of Otago. At all of the above universities there will be training in restorative, endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics and paediatrics. There is a general grasp given about Special Needs Dentistry but this may not suffice for some clinicians. The need thrive and want to become a specialist dentist within any field is highly appreciated, especially working within a team with patients with specials needs.

The pathway to becoming a special needs dentist is as follows: Sustaining primary dental qualifications such as; BDS, BDSc or BDent at a dental school. Application is then made to the above dental schools for enrolment in their post graduate courses.

During obtaining a fellowship in the Special Needs Dentistry field there are a range of case study reports that have to be completed and formulated. One in each of the following categories must be completed to detail the management of patients with:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Physical Disability
  • A patient representing the broad scope of Special Needs Dentistry
  • A multidisciplinary approach to treatment; and reflecting the interface between Special Needs Dentistry and at least one of the other specialties of dentistry or medicine.


The Oral Health Issues of People with Special Needs[edit]

Special care dentistry can be defined as a service that provides care for patients with physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioural, cognitive or emotional impairment which may be congenital, developmental, or acquired through disease, trauma, or environmental cause. Their conditions may hinder their daily activities and may have a major impact on their oral and general health. Examples of patients seen in special care dentistry are those suffering from severe cardiac and respiratory disease, learning disabilities, mental health conditions and neurological conditions. These individuals require special oral health care plans which are tailored to suit their needs and manage oral disease.[26]

Cardiovascular Disease[edit]

CVD is the most common cause of death in the developed world. It is important that the dental team have a thorough understanding of common cardiac conditions and they know how to best manage these patients in the dental setting, since many dental procedures and drugs used in dentistry may aggravate heart disease. Common cardiovascular conditions that are dealt with in special care dentistry include: hypertension, angina, myocardial infarction and inherited and acquired bleeding disorders. Cardiovascular disease is associated with the following oral implications:

  • Periodontitis
  • Caries
  • Xerostomia

It is imperative that preventative advice is implicated early on in the treatment of these patients in order to avoid the need for extensive dental care later on.

Respiratory Disease[edit]

The two most common respiratory diseases that may be encountered in dental practice are asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).[27] Asthma affects almost 5.2 million people in the UK today and causes an airway obstruction resulting in coughing, wheezing and/or shortness of breath.[28] There is no cure for asthma however the management includes use of preventer and reliever inhalers. COPD is a chronic condition that encompasses a collection of lung diseases. COPD can vary in severity ranging from mild to severe disease with some patients suffering from respiratory failure. The development of COPD is predominantly due to smoking and is irreversible.

Developmental Disabilities[edit]

Patients suffering from developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome and intellectual disability have a multitude of different oral health issues. They and their carers require regular oral care to maintain a healthy dentition.

  • Autism:
    • People with autism have a higher risk of caries, bruxism, tongue thrusting and self-injurious behaviour such as picking at the gingiva or biting the lips. In addition, delayed tooth eruption can be seen in Autistic patients.[29]
  • Cerebral Palsy:
    • Patients suffering from cerebral palsy not only struggle accessing dental services, their daily living is affected and therefore they often require additional support with activities including oral care.[30] As a result, these patients are often faced with higher levels of untreated disease and tooth loss.[31]
      • Poor oral hygiene
      • Periodontitis
      • Xerostomia resulting from mouth breathing and medications
      • Enamel hypoplasia
      • Caries
      • Drooling
      • Dysphagia
      • Bruxism
      • Fractured teeth
  • Down's Syndrome:
    • Down's syndrome is a genetic condition that results in learning disability and a variety of physical and medical features. The majority of these patients should be able to be seen in primary dental care with appropriate behavioural management techniques. the degree to which this is successful is entirely dependent on the extent of the learning disability and the cooperation of the patient. Many procedures can be successfully carried out under local anaesthesia but attention should be paid to any pre-existing cardiovascular or neurological conditions. Should the patient be uncooperative or require sedation or general anaesthesia, care can be shared with specialist services. The following oral features are common:
      • Delayed dental development and eruption
      • Hypodontia
      • Microdontia
      • Hypocalcification
      • High incidence of severe early onset of periodontal disease
      • Protruded tongue
      • Strong gag reflex[32]

Mental Health Conditions[edit]

This area of special care dentistry is more common in young adults and adolescents and examples of conditions that are dealt with regularly in the special care setting include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

  • Schizophrenia
    • Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, social withdrawal and apathy. The management of schizophrenia is usually through drug therapies and psychosocial interventions and many patients are well controlled and present no issues with routine dental care. However some aspects of schizophrenia and the management can impact on oral health:
      • Poor self care including diet and oral hygiene
      • Xerostomia as a result of antipsychotic medication
      • Caries
      • Periodontal disease
      • Tardive dyskinesias characterised by involuntary muscle movements
  • Bipolar Disorder
    • This disorder is thought to affect 1-3%[33] of the population and is characterised by manic episodes and depressive episodes. since this condition is relatively common, it is important that dentists understand the main features of the condition and know when to refer for specialist care in a secondary care setting. Bipolar disorder can have an effect on oral health through:
      • Poor oral hygiene
      • Increased levels of plaque and calculus
      • Increased risk of periodontal disease
      • Increased caries
      • Xerostomia
  • Depression
    • 4-10% of people in England will be affected by depression.[34] Typically managed in the primary dental care setting, there are still adverse dental effects that we should be aware of:
      • Xerostomia (typically due to tricyclic antidepressant medication or due to an anxiety component to the disorder)
      • Poor self care including diet and oral hygiene
      • Caries (change in appetite/diet can be a factor in the disorder)
      • Periodontal disease
      • Oral dysaesthesia (generalised physical aches and pains)

Geriatric Patients[edit]

Geriatric patients or ‘elderly’ are also an aspect of special needs dentistry, as sometimes they may be needed with a little extra care and support whilst in the dental environment. Often with ageing there comes the slow shut down of the human body and organs, this can lead to multiple medication conditions and some in particular that are seen more readily in the geriatric population such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Macular degeneration

Because of these particular medical conditions there are many treatment planning objectives that need to be taken into consideration such as ‘is antibiotic prophylaxis required’, ‘ is this within my scope of practice to treat and manage’. Such considerations to the dental environment for geriatric patients include the use of handrails and wheelchair access throughout and outside of the practice. Also when treating the geriatric age group it may not just be situated within the dental practice is can include; independent living, shared housing, assisted living, continuous care communities and nursing homes. The Oral Health Therapist and Dentist are readily needed in these areas to help treat and prevent the further progression of dental disease. Extra empathy must be used when treating geriatric patients as some of them that are being treated may be palliative care or suffering from a severe and enduring mental illness. One of the major obstacles when treating this group of patients is gaining informed consent. Many health care workers in the field consider that the geriatric group can make and assist in their own decision making. Ensuring that the patient is fully adequate in making the informed decision about treatment planning is vital for legality reasonings.[35]

The socially excluded patients such as institutionalised elderly people and substance or drug abused people are also considered as special need patients. These individuals suffer from various oral health conditions. The institutionalised elderly people show more number of caries and root caries than other elderly groups. In addition, the drug abused people consume large quantity of sugar (especially methadone users) which lead to caries. Their teeth are mostly damaged or lost because of convulsions. They also show high level of anxiety towards dental services.[36]

The mentally challenged patients have various specific oral health issues. These are missing or discoloured teeth, periodontal disease and oral malodour. Furthermore, they suffer from xerostomia (dry mouth) because of their medications. This situation increases their risk of dental caries. These patients often require support to maintain their overall health.[36]

Clinical Management of the Special Needs patient within the Dental Clinic[edit]

It is common that patients with mild or moderate forms of intellectual or physical disabled can be treated within the dental environment successfully. Making the patient comfortable, and ensuring they have a familiar setting each appointment can contribute to successful treatment.[37] It is also important to ensure a legal caregiver is able to provide verbal and/or written consent prior to any treatment.[37]

The patient should be supported emotionally, and most importantly physically with the use of protective measures to ensure their safety.[37] Protective measures can include pillows to support and stabilise their head, neck and/or back, making sure the pathway for the patient is clear, with no chairs, cables or foot pedals in the way, and identifying hazardous objects are away from the patient such as sharp instruments on the bracket tray.[37]

Communication is the key element of building a strong rapport with your patient. For those with difficulties or communication impairments, it is imperative that the operator remains patient, actively listens, and allows the patient to finish their sentences.[37] If communication is difficult to understand, consulting with their caregiver may be appropriate. The operator should adapt their communication if the patient has auditory, visual or speech impairments. For auditory impairments, ensure background noise is kept to a minimum, use clear speech, you may be required to speak at a louder volume, but never assume this until it is required. It may also be helpful to avoid wearing a face-mask for communication, or instead consider wearing a clear face shield. For visually impaired patients, always face them when discussing things, ensure tactile senses are utilised, such as a warm hand-shake upon arrival. The patients with speech impediments should be spoken to as you would speak to any patient, it is often mistaken that because the patient has a speech impairment, they have may be developmentally delayed or may have cognitive impairments too, but this is not always the case. Depending on the patients’ condition/s, certain measures may need to be taken in order to safely and successfully treat the patient in a general dental setting. If cooperation is not gained, or the patients special needs exceed what may be provided within a general dental practice, if extensive dental treatment is required, or the patients physical or systemic health are a hazard during treatment, dental treatment under general anaesthetic or within a hospitalised setting may be appropriate instead.[37] To prevent any undesired results from invasive dental treatment, it may be suggested to contact the patients General Practitioner or Specialists. This is particularly important if the patient has cardiac conditions and may require Antibiotic Prophylaxis prior to dental treatment.[37]

Some special needs patients require specific measures throughout dental treatment, for example:

Autistic patients[edit]


  • Be consistent with your technique and treatments, Autistic patients rely on familiarity to make themselves comfortable. This may even involve having the same staff present, and the same surgery set out as per previous appointments.
  • Prior to treatment, identify through medical history how severe the condition is, and whether there are certain triggers for undesirable behaviours or actions; and avoid these where possible.
  • Communication is important in managing Autistic patients. Use the ‘tell-show-do’ method. Explain each dental procedure before you start and take them through step by step. Offer them a mirror to observe what you are doing, provided it is a non-invasive procedure, and motivate the patient to ask questions.
  • Plan a desensitising appointment prior to any formal treatment, show them all aspects of the dental office, let them look at the equipment and instruments likely to be used with the patient in future (for example, mirror, triplex, and suction). This can also extend into a limited examination for the first appointment if the patient permits it. Begin an extra-oral examination using your hands first, and if the patient cooperates, try using a toothbrush to gain access into their mouth. The familiarity of the toothbrush will allow them to feel comfortable, but also allows the operator to further examine the mouth.
  • Always make the appointments short and positive with rewards and reinforcements when/where necessary
  • Keep the light out of the patients eyes, and ensure any instruments are out of their sight, try to be cautious of noises within the dental surgery. Calming background music can be a positive addition to the surgery, particularly if it is something the patient will recognise.
  • Immobilisation techniques are only to be used when absolutely necessary to protect the patient and staff during dental treatment.

Cerebral Palsy[edit]


  • Patients with Cerebral Palsy may require the assistance of a wheelchair. If the patient is moved to the dental chair, ensure the patient has time to get into a position that is safe, and comfortable for them.
  • Always ensure their head and neck are securely stabilised with pillows. This is to avoid uncontrolled movements and primitive movements, which commonly occur with movements of the head and neck, or if the patient is startled. This causes the limbs to extend and/or flex, a potential danger with dental treatment to the patient, operator and staff.
  • If the patient requires dental treatment in their wheelchair, consider using a backboard or head/neck pillows for support.
  • Observe patterns in the patients uncontrolled movements, trying to blend your own movements around them.
  • Be gentle and slow when moving the patients head, and exert gentle but firm pressure on patients’ arm/leg if it begins to shake.

Down Syndrome[edit]


  • Early intervention of healthy oral hygiene habits can prevent severe disease in patients with Down Syndrome
  • Provide the patient with extra time and attention to allow them to feel comfortable and become familiar with yourself and other staff.
  • Take treatment very slowly, introducing different tools/equipment each visit, trying not to overwhelm the patient, start with the most minimally invasive procedure possible, for example, prophylaxis.
  • Be consistent with surgery set out and staff to also influence familiarity
  • Reward cooperative behaviour
  • Down Syndrome patients commonly suffer from a range of cardiac disorders and may benefit from antibiotic prophylaxis.
  • Schedule appointments early in the day and make sure they are not waiting too long for the appointment.
  • Provide oral care in an environment with few distractions
  • Atlantoaxial instability is a common spinal defect in Down Syndrome patients, which can lead to neck pain and unsteady gait, use neck pillows throughout dental procedures for safety and stability.
  • Always maintain clear pathway for patient.
  • Determine best position for patient when they become comfortable and are in the safest position.

Patients requiring Wheelchairs[edit]


  • Prepare the Dental surgery prior to the patients arrival. This can include clearing a pathway for the patient, removing the dental chair armrest, and relocating foot controls, operator lights and bracket tables.
  • Once the patient is in the preferred position, lock the wheels of the chair to avoid any undesired movement throughout treatment.
  • Ensure the patient has adequate head, neck and back support with pillows where required.
  • If the patient is unable to be transferred to the dental chair, most dental chair headrests can be reversed, so the patient may be treated within their wheelchair, with the support of the dental headrest.

Patients with Dementia[edit]

[42] Dementia is a progressive disease where each stage requires different clinical management. One of the main areas of difficulty with this disease is the progressive loss of capacity for the patient to consent for treatment. For this reason, it is important to plan for the patient's future wishes and to restore dental health for a dentition that will be easily maintained as symptoms progress.

Early stage

  • Complete any major restorative treatment as soon as possible while the patient has capacity to consent
  • Plan long-term care to restore function; gain consent at this stage for future treatment
  • Include friends, family and carers in the provision of care; ensure care will be provided throughout progression of disease
  • Prevention is key

Moderate stage

  • Minimally invasive treatment
  • Easily maintained treatment
  • Complete treatment in short stages/shorter appointments
  • Least traumatic intervention where possible
  • Prevention is key

Late stage

  • Relieve pain
  • Provide antibiotics if systemic involvement
  • Minimally invasive treatment
  • Prevention is key

Access to Dental Care[edit]

The Australian and New Zealand Academy of Special Needs Dentistry found that people with disabilities are rarely identified as a priority population group in the public health policy and practice. It is recognised that people with special needs rely on their carers for their dental visits and daily care. Moreover, one study found that carers are confronted with different problems such as, dentists who lack skills in managing people with disabilities. Other complications include inconvenient locations of dental clinics, transport issues and cost of dental treatment.[43]

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recognised that there are only a few dental practitioners that work to improve the oral health of people with special needs. Not only is their access to care almost non-existent in comparison to the general population, but also the facilities are inadequate and staff lack awareness of oral health matters that may impact those with special needs. Facilities such as general anaesthesia which some patients require for dental treatment, is found to be very limited in the public sector. It can be concluded that access to dental care for this population is not only a barrier physically, but also they are disadvantaged by the lack of equipment and facilities available to achieve dental care.[44]

This population group experience higher levels of oral health disease and poorer access to oral health care. For some, dental access could be influenced by socio-economic disadvantage making it difficult to have treatment. As a result, people with special needs are primarily receiving emergency dental care rather than general dental.[45]

Other possible factors that could contribute to poor access include:[46]

  • Access to appropriate oral health information
  • Potential negative attitudes to the need to oral healthcare by either the individual or the carers
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Cost in emotional, financial, psychological and social terms
  • Physical access issues, transport or the dental surgery

In saying this, Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) has recognised some barriers that prevent dental access for people with special needs. To allow easy access to The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne, DHSV has incorporated different strategies. Some include three lifts to all floors of the hospital and incorporating four disabled parking spaces and a wheel chair ramp. For the population who is housebound due to physical disabilities, DHSV has provided a domiciliary oral health service to reduce the challenges that could occur if patients were to travel to the hospital. The dental care provided by this service includes emergency and general dental care such as dental assessments, oral health advice, prevention and extractions. The service is also free if patients have a pensioner Concession care, health care card or a Veteran Affairs Gold card. Victoria DHS.[47]


  1. ^ A case of need: proposal for a speciality in Special Care Dentistry Joint Advisory Committee for Special Care Dentistry (2003)
  2. ^ "Diplomate in Special Care Dentistry - Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA)". www.scdaonline.org. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
  3. ^ Dougall A. and Fiske J. (2008) Access to special care dentistry, British Dental Journal 204 pp 605-616
  4. ^ Frenkel, Heather; Chalmers, Jane; Ettinger, Ronald L. (1 August 2004). "Dentistry for Persons with Special Needs: How Should It Be Recognized?". Journal of Dental Education. Jdentaled.org. 68 (8): 803–806. PMID 15286100. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  5. ^ Ettinger, Ronald L.; Chalmers, Jane; Frenkel, Heather (1 August 2004). "Dentistry for Persons with Special Needs: How Should It Be Recognized?". Journal of Dental Education. 68 (8): 803–806. ISSN 0022-0337. PMID 15286100.
  6. ^ S. Liberali (personal communication, May 16, 2016)
  7. ^ "Home | ASSCID". www.asscid.org.au. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Welcome - ANZSPD". anzspd.org.au. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Welcome - AAPD". aapd.org.au. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Special needs dental health services - Dental Health Services Victoria". www.dhsv.org.au. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  11. ^ General Dental Council, accessed 6 October 2009.
  12. ^ Specialist Advisory Committee in Special Care Dentistry (2007) Training Programme in Special Care Dentistry PDF
  13. ^ "Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center / General Practice Residency (12 months)". programpages.passweb.org. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  14. ^ Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. "General Practice Residency-2-Program Description" (PDF).
  15. ^ "Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA)". www.scdaonline.org. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  16. ^ "Home". iADH: International Association for Disability and Oral Health. 11 August 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  17. ^ "SCDA Mission and Vision - Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA)". scda.site-ym.com. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  18. ^ "SCDA Journal - Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA)". scda.site-ym.com. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  19. ^ "About the Journal of Disability and Oral Health". iADH: International Association for Disability and Oral Health. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  20. ^ "Special Needs Dentistry — Melbourne Dental School". dental.bespoke.unimelb.edu.au. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Dental Board of Australia - Guidelines for scope of practice". www.dentalboard.gov.au. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  22. ^ a b c d e "Dental Board of Australia - Guidelines for scope of practice". www.dentalboard.gov.au. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  23. ^ 3DN. "ADA NSW - Oral Health Therapist". www.adansw.com.au. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  24. ^ Network AE. Australian Education Network. Australian dental schools in Australia; 1998 [cited 2016 May 15]. Available from: http://www.australianuniversities.com.au/schools/dental/
  26. ^ Pediatrics, American Academy of; Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric; Coté, Charles J.; Wilson, Stephen (1 December 2006). "Guidelines for Monitoring and Management of Pediatric Patients During and After Sedation for Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures: An Update". Pediatrics. 118 (6): 2587–2602. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2780. ISSN 0031-4005. PMID 17142550.
  27. ^ Greenwood, Mark. (2018). Essentials of human disease in dentistry. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-119-25185-9. OCLC 1041646620.
  28. ^ Lewis, M.J.; Short, A.L.; Lewis, K.E. (October 2006). "Autonomic nervous system control of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems in asthma". Respiratory Medicine. 100 (10): 1688–1705. doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2006.01.019. ISSN 0954-6111.
  29. ^ "Practical Oral Care for People With Autism". www.nidcr.nih.gov. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  30. ^ Jones, J. E.; Weddell, J. A.; McKown, C. G. (May 1988). "Incidence and indications for surgical management of phenytoin-induced gingival overgrowth in a cerebral palsy population". Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 46 (5): 385–390. doi:10.1016/0278-2391(88)90222-4. ISSN 0278-2391. PMID 3163372.
  31. ^ "Practical Oral Care for People With Cerebral Palsy". www.nidcr.nih.gov. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Practical Oral Care for People With Down Syndrome". www.nidcr.nih.gov. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  33. ^ "Mental Health- Bipolar Disorder". 7 August 2015.
  34. ^ "Mental health statistics: The most common mental health problems". 26 October 2015.
  35. ^ 12. Friedman P. Geriatric dentistry.
  36. ^ a b Davies, Roger; Bedi, Raman; Scully, Crispian (19 August 2000). "Oral health care for patients with special needs". BMJ. 321 (7259): 495–498. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7259.495. ISSN 0959-8138. PMC 1118393. PMID 10948035.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g Trobe, L. (2016d). La Trobe university LMS: Log in to the site. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from Practical Oral Health for people with Intellectual Disability, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2205158/mod_resource/content/0/Oral%20care%20for%20people%20with%20intellectual%20disability.pdf
  38. ^ Trobe, L. (2016). La Trobe university LMS: Log in to the site. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from Practical Oral Care for people with Autism, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2205155/mod_resource/content/0/Oral%20care%20for%20people%20with%20autism.pdf
  39. ^ Trobe, L. (2016b). La Trobe university LMS: Log in to the site. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from Practical Oral Care for people with Cerebral Palsy, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2205156/mod_resource/content/0/Oral%20care%20for%20people%20with%20cerebral%20palsy.pdf
  40. ^ Trobe, L. (2016c). La Trobe university LMS: Log in to the site. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from Practical Oral Care for people with Down Syndrome, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2205157/mod_resource/content/0/Oral%20care%20for%20people%20with%20down%20syndrome.pdf
  41. ^ Trobe, L. (2016e). La Trobe university LMS: Log in to the site. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from Wheelchair Transfer - A Healthcare Provider’s Guide, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2205159/mod_resource/content/0/Wheelchair%20Transfer%20-%20a%20health%20care%20provider_s%20guide.pdf
  42. ^ BDA Evidence Summary. Dental Problems and their management in patients with dementia. BDA December 2013
  43. ^ "Australian Society of Special Care n Dentistry" (PDF). Australian and New Zealand Academy of Special Needs Dentistry. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  44. ^ 1. D N, Federal H. Submission 552 - Australian dental association Inc - disability care and support - public inquiry. [place unknown: publisher unknown]; 2010.
  45. ^ Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2009, Oral health of health cardholders attending for dental care in the private and public sectors, Dental Statistics and Research Series, Number 50.
  46. ^ D N, Federal H. Submission 552 - Australian dental association Inc - disability care and support - public inquiry. [place unknown: publisher unknown]; 2010.* Poor information regarding available dental surgery
  47. ^ [place unknown: publisher unknown]. Special needs dental health services - dental health services Victoria [cited 2016 May 21]. Available from: https://www.dhsv.org.au/public-dental-services/special-needs-dental-health-services.

External links[edit]