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Issues & People

The Future of Special Care Dentistry




This is the third in a series of interviews with thoughts leaders in various clinical disciplines about the future of dentistry.

Dr. Alison Dougall spoke with Dr. John O’Keefe about treating patients with disability and the future of special care dentistry.

Dr. Dougall is Editor with the International Association of Disability and Oral Health (iADH), Consultant for medically complex patients, and Director of Post Graduate Training in Special Care Dentistry at the Dublin Dental University Hospital.

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  • We can equip the general dentist with the skills and attitudes required to provide care for people with disabilities.
  • Special care dentistry should be integrated with the new approaches to providing care which evolve around the centrality of the patient.
  • Some of the new technologies that will help in the future are in the area of communication aids, such as the use of electronic devices and teledentistry. Other technologies are related to dealing with people with disabilities, such as adjustable chairs, chair tilters, aids that help the dentist seat the patient, etc.
  • The game changer is the attitude, to stop trying to fit everybody into one way of doing dentistry.
  • What’s needed is more positive role models and seeing how treating people with disabilities in action.
  • Treating people with disabilities should be part of the educational curriculum in dental schools.
  • Only a small percentage (less than 20 percent ) of people with disabilities require care provided by specialists or need GA or sedation.
  • Associations should send the message that disability is not something that is off in a corner, but is part of the diversity of the patient population.


Dr. Alison Dougall qualified from the University of Leeds and trained in Special Care Dentistry at the Eastman Dental Institute, London. She is a Consultant in Medically Compromised Patients and teaches Special Care Dentistry at undergraduate, post-graduate and Doctorate levels at Dublin University Dental Hospital. Dr. Dougall is also Chair of Additional Speciality Training in Dentistry for the Irish Dental Council, Chair of Dental Committee of World Federation of Haemophilia, Chair of Education Committee of iADH, Oral Health Acadenic Reference Panel for the Department of Health, and Winner of the Irish Health Management Institute Health Leader in ireland 2015. She has published widely in the topic of Special Care Dentistry and is International Invited Speaker and is a member of the Academic Reference Panel for Department of Health, Ireland.


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