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Trinity College Dublin

Special Care Dentistry


The professional doctorate in Special Care Dentistry runs over three years, full time. It is possible for the course to be offered part-time, over five years. In their first year, in addition to modules in the Dublin Dental University Hospital, students follow selected modules as part of the MSc in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, in the School of Psychology in University College Dublin. Clinical rotations take place in partner hospitals in Dublin. The teaching and learning will be apportioned broadly as follows: 60% clinical, 40% didactic. The didactic component will include a research dissertation. The total ECTS to be applied to this course is 270 credits of which 90 will be attributed to the research dissertation.


The three-year specialist training programme in Special Care Dentistry will include experience and study in the following key areas:

  • Concepts of health, impairment and disability
  • Conditions leading to impairment and disability
  • Sociology of health, impairment and disability
  • The impact of impairment and disability on oral health, general health and quality of life
  • The impact of oral health on impairment/disability, general health and quality of life
  • Planning and management of health and related service delivery
  • Management and delivery of oral health care
  • Development of oral health care promotion programmes
  • Provision of appropriate dental care based on the development of skills for history taking, examination, diagnosis, treatment planning and delivery of clinical dentistry
  • The use of behaviour management, local analgesia, conscious sedation and general anaesthesia
  • Links with other specialties and inter- professional and inter- disciplinary working
  • Life support skills and management of medical emergencies
  • Legislation and ethics relevant to dental practise and, in particular, to Special Care Dentistry
  • Clinical governance, audit and research

Learning Outcomes:

Module 1:

Advanced Dental Science

Module 2:

Critically assess the service in which they work with regard to the philosophies and models that shape service delivery that operate there
Use the insights from the module to take part in the development of their services to better support their client group

Module 3:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of key issues in lifespan development and disability.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the relevance of Quality of Life for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Demonstrate competence in applying a model of individualized support in practice.

Module 4:

Be able to classify assistive technologies relating to movement for people who are impaired

Module 5:

Demonstrate understanding of current issues and debates in disability studies and explain the relevance of these issues for policy and practice in Irish society.

Module 6:

  • Explain different manifestations of impairments for medically, intellectually, mentally, physically and sensorily compromised people.
  • Relate day to day implications of impairment and consequent disability.
  • Differentiate the epidemiology of disability – by condition, age groups
  • Summarise the epidemiology of oral diseases: national and international oral/dental health surveys
  • Justify the oral and dental affects of impairments
  • Explain the oral health care systems in Ireland and other parts of the world in relation to disability, the public and private sector
  • Contrast quality of life as affected by: self esteem, appearance, social acceptability, relationships, diet, nutrition and alternate feeding routes, comfort/pain, mouth-held devices.
  • Contrast aspects of preventive dental care: role of fluoridation, home versus surgery delivered care; education and role of carers;
  • Justify the modifications required to standard preventive techniques and materials

Module 7:

Demonstrate skills in the development and organisation of services for people who have learning disability, physical impairment, complex medical conditions, mental illness; a history of substance misuse and other vulnerable adults.
Interpret the organisational structure and role of the health service and other statutory and voluntary organizations; cross sectoral and inter-agency working; caring and advocacy; and the role of primary health care teams and the dental and medical specialties

Module 8:

Appraise and justify the identification of the person who requires special oral health care and the organisation required for the delivery of appropriate treatment services in the relevant care setting for the individual

Module 9:

Apply learning from previous modules to the delivery of clinical special care dentistry services and demonstrate clinical competence

Module 10:

Employ the information from the regulatory framework to undertake safe and effective  dental care planning and treatment

Module 11:

Employ learned skills to interpret literature searches; devise an application for ethical approval and design research projects, setting up databases and analysis of research findings. Be able to write up case reports and research project(s) suitable for publication

Assessment Methods:

Assessment is by open book essays, end of year examination (SAQs), presentations and portfolio review.

Entry criteria

Students must possess a dental degree, recognised by the Dental Council of Ireland. Entry to training in Special Care Dentistry would normally follow a two-year period of general professional training. Experience in the field of Special Care Dentistry is desireable.Additionally, possession of the Diploma of the Member of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (MFD/MFDS) of one of the Royal Colleges or approved equivalent will be required. Students should all have evidence of satisfactory serconversion for protection against Hepatitis B.

Staff :

Course Director
Professor June H Nunn
MA, BDS (Dund), PhD (Ncle), FDS RCS (Edin), FDS RCS (Eng), DDPH RCS (Eng), FFD RCSI,  FTCD, FRCPCH.
Dean, School of Dental Science, Trinity College Dublin 2010-
Professor of Special Care Dentistry, Dublin Dental School and Hospital 2001-Academic awards and distinctions:
British Council Visiting Scholar 1990-1993; MA (TCD)   2003; FTCD  2003;
Fellowship in Dental Surgery – FDS RCS (Eng) Ad Eundum   2004;
Speciality Fellowship Faculty of Dentistry  RCSI Ad Eundum   2006;
Fellow, Higher Education Academy (4831)  2007;
Honorary Life Member, British Society for Disability and Oral Health 2007;
Lifetime Achievement Award, International Association for Disability and Oral Health 2008;
Honorary Life Member, Irish Society for Disability and Oral Health 2009.

Past President of the British Society for Disability and Oral Health, the  International Association for Disability and Oral Health and a founding member, Irish Society for Disability and Oral Health
Editor, Journal of Disability and Oral Health 2000-2010.
Member of UK Specialist Advisory Committee on Special Care Dentistry; Examiner in the Membership in Special Needs Dentistry and the M Paed Dent,  Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and mentor for the Diploma in Special Care Dentistry, Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Author of 100 + papers and 18 chapters/textbooks.

List of course staff:

Dr A Dougall B Ch D., MSc.
Lecturer/Consultant in Medically Compromised Adults

Dr Mary Clarke BA., B Dent SC., M Dent Ch., FDS RCPS (Glas)., FFD RCSI
Lecturer in Conscious Sedation/Specialist Oral Surgery

Dr J McLoughlin BA., B Dent Sc., MDS (NUI)., FDS RCSI., FFD. DPH (RCSI)
Senior Lecturer in Public Dental Health

Dr Suzanne Guerin BA; PhD.
Academic Director, Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, School of Psychology, University College Dublin.

Professor S Flint BDS (Lond), MB (Lond)., MA., PhD., FDS RCS (Eng)., FDS RCSI.
Professor of Oral Medicine

Dr Michael O’Sullivan BA., B Dent SC., MSc (Lond)., PhD., FFDRCSI., FDS RCS (Ed. ) Senior Lecturer/Consultant in Restorative Dentistry (Special Dental Needs)

Dr Denise MacCarthy. BDS (NUI)., MA., M Dent SC.,FDS RCS (Ed). Senior Lecturer/Consultant (Periodontology)

Dr Osam Omer BDS (Khart)., MSc (Mnac)., PhD (Manc)., FFD RCSI
Senior Lecturer/Consultant in Maxillofacial Prosthodontics

Senior Lecturer/Consultant in Oral Maxillofacial Surgery And Clinical Academic Staff in partner hospitals