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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. From a psychological point of view this grouping may include people with moderate reading difficulties (so they may not be able to read information literature, surgery signs or the forms providing funding) to people who may be unable to grasp the point of the procedures and who may feel very threatened as a result.

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)).

People in this group require particular education and support to establish and maintain their oral health.

Generally the individual care plan of most people with special needs should contain the monitoring or supervision of their oral health consistent with their own wishes on this matter.It is also important that assessment of dental anxiety dental fear is undertaken with this group with subsequent counseling prior to dental treatment undertaken where appropriate.



  • Glassman, P. (2006). Oral Health Promotion with People with Special Needs. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.


  • Waldman, H. B., & Perlman, S. P. (2004). Eliminating Medicaid Dentistry for Adults With Mental Retardation: Mental Retardation Vol 42(6) Dec 2004, 476-479.
  • Waldman, H. B., & Perlman, S. P. (2003). Collaboration between social workers and dentists for care of people with special health needs: A commentary: Social Work in Health Care Vol 37(2) 2003, 101-107.

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