Melbourne Dental School

Special Needs Dentistry

Course Convener

Dr Mina Borromeo

BSc(Hons) (Monash) BDSc (Melb) MScMed (Pain Management) (Syd) PhD (Monash) FFPMANZCA FRACDS


Doctor of Clinical Dentistry degree in Special Needs Dentistry

Special Needs Dentistry (SND) is that branch of dentistry concerned with the oral health of people severely affected by intellectual or physical disability, or by profound psychiatric or complex medical issues. It is a new and emerging Specialty within dentistry and, to date, there are 8 registered Specialist within Victoria. 

The Doctor of Clinical Dentistry (DCD) degree in Special Needs Dentistry at the University of Melbourne has several purposes. In the United Kingdom in 2003, the Joint Advisory Committee for Special Care Dentistry released a document regarding training in Special Needs Dentistry.  Two key aims of training programs in Special Needs Dentistry should enable trainees to “acquire the appropriate knowledge, skills, attitudes and judgement to meet the oral health needs of individuals and groups in society who have physical, sensory, intellectual, mental, medical, emotional or social impairment or disability” and secondly “obtain a sense of professional interest and enquiry, encouraging the Specialist in SND to maintain competency and proficiency throughout his/her career by continuing professional education.”

 The degree is designed to provide students with the opportunity to advance their professional knowledge and skills in SND to a specialist level, and to engage with new and emerging relevant fields of study. The course is designed to facilitate the advanced development of clinical, academic and research skills necessary for a graduate to further a career in specialty practice (both public and private), academia or research.

The DCD degree in SND is a three-year full time course that provides advanced study and training in all areas of this specialty. Graduates will be prepared for specialty practice in both the public and private sector, or teaching and research in a dental school. Clinical experience is provided at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne and its associated clinics under the instruction of staff of the University of Melbourne, and other major teaching hospitals where SND Units are present such as The Royal Children’s Hospital, Austin Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

DCD students spend approximately half the time in clinical sessions. Approximately twenty percent of the time involves participating in seminars based on the latest research and the remaining thirty percent of the course is taken up conducting research that forms that basis for a thesis of approximately 25,000 words. 

The SND course commenced at The University of Melbourne in 2006. It has been developed to keep in line with specialty training programs in Special Needs Dentistry both nationally and internationally. It received new program accreditation in 2008 by the Australian Dental Council.

International and local general dentists with at least two years full-time clinical experience are eligible to apply for admission to this degree. International graduates of the Doctor of Clinical Dentistry who held limited registration with the Dental Board of Australia for the duration of the course and who intend to practice as a specialist in Australia are required to pass the Australian Dental Council examinations prior to applying for specialist registration with the Dental Board of Australia.

The SND course is currently under the direction of Dr Mina Borromeo who commenced in this position in January 2006. In 2005, Dr Borromeo completed Fellowship Examination in the field of Special Needs Dentistry through the Royal Australian College of Dental Surgeons she also holds a Fellowship in Pain Management through the Faculty of Pain Medicine, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.

In addition to Doctor of Clinical Dentistry students, Dr Borromeo also supervises students wishing to undertake a research degree.

Research in Special Needs Dentistry

Special Needs Dentistry is a discipline where the potential for research into a variety of clinical and non-clinical fields is immense. General dentists wishing to undertake substantial research in the field of Special Needs Dentistry may apply for admission to the Master of Dental Science by research (MDSc) or the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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