Aim: This study documented: (i) the curriculum in special care dentistry in the Italian dental schools, as perceived by Deans and by students, (ii) the rate of satisfaction of dental students with their curricular education in special care dentistry, (iii) the attitude of the dental students towards special care dentistry and towards the ‘Special Smiles’ programme.
Methods: The quality and amount of didactic and clinical training delivered by each dental school for subjects with intellectual disability (ID), the interest of students towards this health field and the ‘Special Smiles’ programme were collected. Self-administered surveys were sent to the Dean and to all the final year students of all dental schools in 20 Italian Universities.
Results: Only four Deans of the 20 dental schools answered the survey, stating to provide didactic and clinical education in special care dentistry. A 51% of student response rate was obtained. Dental students reported to spend about 4% of didactic and 5% of clinical training in the dental care for ID subjects. Most students (83%) rated the training they had received on the topic to be poor. Over 50% of students expressed interest in working in dental offices specifically dedicated to ID patients and 25% of students wished to become Special Smiles volunteers.
Conclusions: Although the paucity of didactic and clinical training in dental care for ID patients, this survey demonstrated a high level of student’s interest in learning more about treating these subjects. The current results could suggest to revise the curricular standards of dental schools, by promoting ID-oriented education programmes.