How to become a Specialist in... Special Care Dentistry

Welcome to my latest series.... how to become a specialist. I've blogged about my top tips for specialist training here already, but get ready to see more posts about specific dental specialities. And let's start with mine.... Special Care Dentistry

Why Special Care?

I chose Special Care for many reasons, but interestingly, I didn't really know what Special Care was until my second year practising as a dentist! We hadn't had much exposure to the speciality as an undergraduate, but when I started working at a walk in emergency dental department in a secondary care setting and started seeing people with additional needs because they struggled to get access elsewhere, this is when I looked in Special Care. The main reasons why I chose this area of dentistry to specialise in were:

  • I found treating people with difficulty accessing dental care because of their complex needs really fulfilling
  • The problem solving needed to treat some of these patients, I also really enjoy. Thinking outside of the box so that my patients are able to get the treatment they need is really satisfying
  • Being able to provide all types of dental treatment a patient might need: from restorative, to endodontics, to dentures, to extractions
  • Specialising allowed me to provide more complex care under all modalities for these patients: from local anaesthetic to sedation to general anaesthesia

How Long is the Training?

Specialist training for Special Care is 3 years full time in the UK. I know lots of trainees who do their training less than full time (LTFT), and my training took 3 and a half years as I did my first year part time alongside a clinical leadership fellowship.

What is a Typical Week like?

Like all StR pathways, a Special Care StR has time in the week dedicated for clinical training, but also academia, research, teaching and other activites (such as audits, CPD etc).

My timetable changed throughout my training (particularly drastically during the initial waves of COVID-19!), but on the whole I would spend 1-2 days on non-clinical activity and the rest clinical. I had the opportunity to rotate around several environments, hospitals and community clinics under different supervisors: from general anaesthetic, sedation clinics, MDT meetings, domiciliary care, outreach clinics, seeing patients on wards, mobile clinics - I had such a range of experience in my training programme! I also spent 2 of my years of training completing a Masters in Special Care Dentistry.

To see a break down of one of my typical weeks, see a previous blog post here.

Top Tips for Applying

  1. Make sure you check out the personal specification to make sure you hit the minimum requirements
  2. Get a good range of experiences of dentistry in practice, hospital and community before you apply. You need to be a good dentist before you start seeing patients with additional needs (good at extractions, restorative treatments etc)
  3. Join specialist societies and attend their meetings such as the British Society for Disability and Oral Health, the British Society of Gerodontology and SAAD.
  4. Make sure you spend some time working within the Community Dental Services as this is where the majority of the speciality is based.
  5. Speak to people who are current StRs or trainers to get an idea of what posts are coming up and what they involve. You can always contact me - I offer one on one career coaching to help guide you through the process!

Good luck if you're thinking of applying! I hope this gives you further information about my speciality... and look out for others coming soon!

Do you have any questions about Special Care Dentistry or applying for specialist training? Leave them in the comments below.

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