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Keywords:

  • special care dentistry;
  • education;
  • curriculum;
  • Delphi;
  • international classification of functioning

Abstract

It has been reported that healthcare providers often lack the skills set to provide care for people with disabilities, leading to inequalities in health and reduced access to health care. Newly graduating dentists are likely to see a significant number of patients with special healthcare needs in the course of their practicing lives. However, there is evidence of national and international variation in the availability of education and training at the undergraduate level in this important, emerging area. The quality and content of undergraduate education in Special Care Dentistry has been shown to correlate with students' confidence and their expressed willingness, towards providing care for patients with special healthcare needs in their future practice. The aim of this study was to use information from a three-round Delphi process, continued into a face-to-face meeting, to establish consensus on what constitutes the essential core knowledge, skills and attitudes required by a newly qualified dentist so that they are able to deliver patient care to diverse populations following graduation. A high level of agreement was established amongst an international panel of experts from 30 countries. The final core items identified by the panel showed a paradigm shift away from the traditional emphasis on medical diagnosis within a curriculum towards an approach based on the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) with patient-centred treatment planning for people with disabilities and special healthcare needs according to function or environment. Many of the core skills identified by the panel are transferable across a curriculum and should encourage a person-centred approach to treatment planning based on the function, needs and wishes of the patient rather than their specific diagnosis.