Author(s): Ronald L Ettinger
The purpose of this editorial is to advocate the development of a career path within the field of Special Needs Dentistry. After a brief historical overview, the status of specialty training and certification in Special Needs Dentistry in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand will be reviewed including descriptions of recently developed training and credentialing programs. In 1981, under the auspices of the American Dental Association, the journals of the American Association of Hospital Dentists, the Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities (formerly Academy of Dentistry for the Handicapped), and the American Society for Geriatric Dentistry were merged to form a single journal: Special Care in Dentistry. This was the first time the term “special care” was used within the profession. In 1987, Paul Van Osterberg’s vision led to the birth of the Federation of Special Care Organizations in Dentistry.1 In the United States, Special Care Dentistry has been described as “an approach to oral health management tailored to the individual needs of people with a variety of medical conditions or limitations that require more than routine delivery of care”; it “encompasses preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services.”2 Glassman and Miller in 1998 proposed that patients with “special needs” referred to “medical, social, psychological, or physical conditions that make it necessary to modify the normal course of dental treatment. Examples of such conditions include medical and developmental disabilities, problems associated with aging and psychological problems.”3 Special Needs Dentistry is defined by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh as “the specialty of dentistry concerned with the oral health care of patients with special needs for whatever reason including those who are physically or mentally challenged.”4 The definition of Special Needs Dentistry used in Australia and New Zealand (the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons) is “that part of dentistry concerned with the oral health of people adversely affected by intellectual disability, medical, physical, or psychiatric issues.”5 As they evolved, the terms “Special Care Dentistry” and “Special Needs Dentistry” became essentially synonymous.