The GDC currently recognises 13 various fields of dentistry with regards to their specialist register. You are not required to join a specialist list to practise a specialty, however, only dentists on these specialist lists have the right to use the ‘specialist’ title. In this series of articles you can find out more about each specialty from experts in their respective fields, with advice on the career pathway as well as sharing their experiences as a specialist.

Special Care Dentistry involves the improvement of the oral health of individuals and groups in society who have a physical, sensory, intellectual, mental, medical, emotional or social impairment or disability or, more often, a combination of these factors. It pertains to adolescents and adults.

In the following article, Nicholas Beacher discusses how you can establish a career in Special Care Dentistry.


Mr Nicholas Beacher | B.D.S. M.F.D.S. (RCPSG),

Clinical Lecturer and Honorary StR in Special Care Dentistry
University of Glasgow Dental School
378 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow, G2 3JZ

Where have you worked and studied?

I completed my undergraduate dental training at The University of Glasgow. As part of my undergraduate studies I undertook a year-long specialist study module in Special Care Dentistry. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to gain experience in the field of dentistry I was most interested in. I also developed a strong interest in research and managed to get some hands on experience working with academic colleagues in the Oral Microbiology Department. This was an invaluable experience as it developed my research and scientific skills and increased my appreciation of the value of research and the importance of our scientific colleagues to our dental team.


After graduation, I entered the South East of Scotland Longitudinal Dental Foundation Training Scheme. The training program allowed me to develop my knowledge and clinical ability across the dental specialties. I have developed a broad range of skills and a true understanding of the different dental services and how they relate to each other. It was of real value to me to work in General Dental Practice for two years. This allowed me to have continuity with my patients and I feel I am in a better position to relate to and communicate with referring GDPs. Having obtained my MFDS, I am now undertaking my specialist training in Special Care Dentistry following an academic pathway.

What is SCD?

Special Care Dentistry focuses on the prevention and management of oral disease for the people in society who are unable to receive their dental care routinely as a consequence of a physical, sensory, intellectual, mental, medical, emotional or social impairment or, more often, a combination of these.(1)

In a world where everyone has an equal right to healthcare there is a need for dental professionals who possess a specialist set of skills to enable those with disability or impairment to receive the high quality, patient centred oral healthcare they deserve.

A typical day…

As a training junior academic dentist, my days are very varied. Some days are dedicated to clinical training, where I will be working with patients or attending lectures. Other days are dedicated to teaching or contributing to the research of the university.


Entry Requirements

Entry into any Specialty Training Post is extremely competitive. Making yourself stand out from the crowd is challenging but, having evidence of your commitment and desire to pursue your chosen career puts you in a stronger position when it comes to applying for positions. Publications and prizes look great on any application and show you are dedication to the profession and its advancement.

The full entry requirements as defined by the GDC for entry into a Specialty Training position in Special Care Dentistry are available at: career route

In summary, to enter Specialist Training in Special Care Dentistry you require:

  • B.D.S.
  • Two years post-graduate experience (General Professional Training)
  • Although not essential, MFDS or MJDF is desirable

The above is the minimum typically expected from prospective applicants. However, it is strongly recommended to check the essential and desirable criteria listed in the person specification provided for specific specialty training posts (StR). An exemplar person specification can be found in the ‘Further Information’ section at the bottom of the page.

Training pathway:

In 2008, Special Care Dentistry was accepted as the newest dental speciality by the GDC. In recognition of this, a specialty training programme was developed which has resulted in formal specialist training posts being created throughout the United Kingdom. Currently, there are two recognised pathways which upon completion lead to acceptance onto the GDC held specialist list. The first of these pathways is NHS funded and the training is focussed on developing the knowledge, understanding and clinical skills of the dentist to allow them to practice Special Care Dentistry. The second pathway is that of the academic trainees who undertake the same clinical training as their colleagues but, will also undertake additional roles in research and teaching. Some of the differences between the pathways are summarised in the table below

Time Period of Training: 3 years

Location of Training: Based in community clinics with some clinical attendance at a Dental Hospital likely

Career Outlook: 

  • For those who primarily wish to work clinically. The majority of positions are within the P.D.S.
  • Will have a role in teaching and opportunity to participate in research.

Time Period of Training: 4 years

Location of Training: Based at a University Dental School with attendance to outlying community clinics

Additional Training Roles: 

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Undertaking additional training / qualifications e.g. PGCAP, MSC

Career Outlook: 

  • For those with aspirations to contribute to both research and teaching.
  • Generally based within a University Dental School but, will have a role in the P.D.S.
  • For those considering further study or already in possession of a higher degree e.g. DDS , PHD

Career options after specialising…

At present there are two main career paths following completion of specialist training. Most specialists work within the P.D.S. although they may have a role within a Dental Hospital. Their main focus is on the clinical care of patients. However, it is likely they will be involved in teaching to a certain degree. Further promotion to a position as Clinical Director of an NHS board is possible, if so desired.

The second career option is that of the academic specialist. Following completion of a further higher degree, such as a PHD or DDS, it is possible for the specialist to be appointed to a position as a Senior Clinical Lecturer within a University Dental School. The academic specialist has a commitment to research and teaching whilst continuing to provide clinical care for patients as an Honorary Consultant


Special Care Dentistry is an ultimately fulfilling and rewarding career where each patient is treated as a person and is put at the centre of care to allow their individual needs to be met. This is a growing speciality which is beginning to emerge from its infancy to flourish as an essential group of highly skilled professionals who manage the oral healthcare of some of the most vulnerable members of society. 

  1. Gallagher J E, Fiske J. Special care dentistry – a professional challenge. Br Dent J 2007; 202: 619–629


Join the discussion...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.