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NHS dental services

Dental treatment for people with special needs

Some dentists may be able to treat people with special needs in their surgery. However, some people may not be able to get to their dental practice because of a disability or medical condition. In this case, the dentist should refer the patient to a more specialised dental service. Ask your dentist what is needed for a referral and if it is suitable in your case.

Specialised dental services are commonly provided by community dental services. Community dental services are available in a variety of places to ensure everyone can have access to dental health. These include hospitals, specialist health centres and mobile clinics, as well as home visits or visits in nursing and care homes. Some hospitals or health centres also help people who need specialist care and may be able to offer treatment under sedation or general anaesthetic.

People who may need community dental services include:

  • children with extensive untreated tooth decay who are particularly anxious or uncooperative
  • children with physical or learning disabilities or medical conditions
  • children referred for specific treatment
  • children who are "looked after" or on the "at risk register"
  • adults with complex needs who have a proven difficulty in accessing or accepting care in general dental services, including adults with moderate and severe learning and physical disabilities or mental health problems
  • adults with medical conditions who need additional dental care
  • housebound and homeless people

To find out more about the community dental care available in your area, contact NHS England on 0300 311 2233.

Tips for your appointment

If you are referred to a specialist dental service ensure your dentist is forwarding all necessary documents.

Don't be afraid to ask detailed questions about anything you don't understand about your treatment or the costs involved. If necessary let the dentist explain it to your carer or family member. 

If you have specific medical requirements, for example medication allergies, or fears make a note of it and tell your dentist at your first appointment. Read the section on Fear of the dentist.

The Oral Health Foundation can also offer advice about dental care for people with special needs

Page last reviewed: 31/01/2017

Next review due: 31/01/2020