Division of Special Care in Dentistry

The School of Dental Medicine makes a direct impact on thousands of lives through the various programs facilitated by the Division of Special Care in Dentistry. The division takes a proactive role in providing quality, locally-based clinical services and aggressive preventive education programs to under-served populations.

Without the division’s outreach, most of these patients would not otherwise receive dental health care, due to issues such as the difficulties that characterize treatment of disabled individuals and the decreasing number of dentists who accept state-provided health insurance. By bringing specially-trained dentists, hygienists and other dental health care providers directly to patients who need treatment the most, the division has set a national benchmark for serving the special needs population.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Dental Program for Persons with Special Needs in Partnership with Tufts Dental School

Since 1976, The Tufts Dental Facilities (TDF) have provided comprehensive oral health care to developmentally disabled individuals in Massachusetts. The result of a contractual partnership between the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the state’s Department of Developmental Services, the nationally recognized program – the largest of its kind – serves more than 7,000 patients at eight clinics throughout the state. The program also maintains arrangements with four hospitals to address the needs of patients who require IV sedation or general anesthesia for treatment.

Focused on the dental health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, blindness and Down syndrome, Tufts Dental Facilities depend on the support of university, community, government, hospital and private health care resources to fill an important health care gap for this population.

For more information and to make an appointment, please click here.

Serving Patients with Developmental Disabilities in the Tufts Community Dental Health Program

As part of the larger Community Dental Health Program, Tufts serves approximately 2,500 patients with developmental disabilities in about 191 locations. Most (about 1,900) of those patients are children. Sites include schools, including schools specifically for children with disabilities, adult day activity centers, community organizations, and group residences. Eight dental hygienists travel throughout the state with portable dental equipment, providing oral health education, screening, dental cleaning, dental sealants and fluoride applications to patients. Hygienists also make referrals to local dentists and offer ongoing case management services, providing a critical continuum of care that extends beyond twice-yearly cleanings.

The Community Dental Health Program also gives third-year dental students from Tufts exposure to treatment for patients with disabilities. Students from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene rotate through the community dental program specifically to gain experience with patients with special needs.

Special Care Rotation

Unlike most dental schools, Tufts offers students a unique opportunity to work with special needs patients in a clinical setting. Before graduating, students are required to spend one week at one of the Tufts Dental Facilities.

General Practice Residency Program

Through the General Practice Residency Program, students spend about 40 percent of their time working with special needs patients – significantly more than they would at a typical hospital or community health center. Like the Special Care Rotation, this experience provides important exposure to both the challenges and rewards of working with the special needs population.

Tufts Dental Facilities

Since 1976, Tufts has provided comprehensive oral health care to developmentally and physically disabled children and adults throughout Massachusetts. For more information and to make an appointment, please click here.