About Special Needs Dentistry

Special Needs Dentists find solutions for people who have special health care needs that impact on their oral health and their ability to receive routine dental treatment.

We work to break down barriers to oral health care. Together with our patients and their supporters, we develop strategies for coping with dental treatment and keeping teeth healthy at home. Some of our patients need services with wheelchair accessibility, access to sedation options or sensory adapted environments. Others need a dentist with the extra time, patience and knowledge to work through fears, communication difficulties, challenging behaviours or consent issues. Some of our patients don’t have problems with seeing a dentist, but require additional expertise in treatment planning due to complex health conditions that make them vulnerable to serious medical complications if they have dental problems.

Our patients include people living with:

  • Physical and intellectual disabilities 
    • Chromosomal disorders (e.g. Down’s syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome)
    • Developmental and behavioural disorders (e.g. autism spectrum conditions, ADHD)
    • Neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. dementia, MS, MND, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease)
    • Cerebral palsy, stroke, and acquired brain and spinal injuries
    • Older people with frailty
  • Complex health conditions 
    • Osteoporosis and other bone conditions
    • Cancer
    • Bleeding disorders
    • Compromised immunity
    • Solid organ and bone marrow transplants
    • Joint and connective tissue disease (e.g. arthritis, scleroderma)
  • Anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental health conditions
  • Dental phobia and strong gag reflexes 
  • Palliative care needs

We see patients in a range of settings including at home, in residential care facilities, and hospitals as well as in our dental clinics. Our advanced training and experience enables us to assess and manage complex conditions and collaborate more effectively with medical, allied health and disability support teams. Many of us are also engaged in education and advocacy efforts to address the social, economic, attitudinal, environmental and systemic barriers to dental care.