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Center for Patients with Special Needs

For more than half of a century, patients with special needs have been able to have their dental needs met at Pitt Dental Medicine—the leading regional provider of dental care.

In 2008, after more than 50 years providing multidisciplinary care for patients with disabilities, the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine formally dedicated the Center for Patients with Special Needs (CPSN) with University of Pittsburgh recognition as a Center of Excellence. In 2014, the Center celebrated its sixth anniversary with the opening of a new pediatric facility in the Pitt Dental Medicine Department of Pediatric Dentistry. This illustrates once more why Pitt Dental Medicine is one of the nation’s leading dental schools. Pitt Dental Medicine has been at the forefront of providing care to patients with special needs while educating students, residents, faculty, staff and clinicians in the community about the techniques of caring for those with special needs.

Providing Care for Patients Now and Into the Future

The opening of the CPSN was initiated by Dean Emeritus Thomas Braun and has been supported by the services provided by the School of Dental Medicine's Department of Dental Anesthesiology and other dental specialty programs. The CPSN applies a multidisciplinary approach for both adult and pediatric patients. As the need arises, services often include participation from our medical colleagues across the Pitt and UPMC campuses. The primary focus is to centralize and increase treatment capacity for patients with physical, developmental, neurological and behavioral challenges, as well as the frail elderly and those with medical complexity. With support from the University, the Center now features an updated ADA-compliant patient entrance which helps to increase access to care for the patients. The enhanced area is able to accommodate larger wheelchair-accessible vehicles, EMT transportation, and allows adequate room for turn-around capabilities.

This year, we celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Center and note the sixth anniversary of the new pediatric facility in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Pitt Dental Medicine has been at the forefront of providing care for patients with a variety of disabilities and has established itself as an example in this discipline for other dental academic institutions. In 2018, the CPSN received the Gies Award for Innovation from the American Dental Education Association. The Gies Awards, named after William J. Gies, Ph.D., honor individuals and organizations that exemplify the highest standards in oral health, dental education, research and leadership. The goals of providing a dental home for patients with disabilities while simultaneously educating students, residents, faculty, staff and clinicians within the community have been fulfilled within the Center for Patients with Special Needs.

Goals of the Center for Patients with Special Needs

  • Provide care for patients with special dental and health care needs
  • Give patients with disabilities a home for continuing dental care
  • Educate dental residents, pre-doctoral dental students and dental hygiene students, thus increasing the number of dental providers capable of providing care for individuals with disabilities in the local community and beyond

Educating the Dental Providers of Tomorrow

The School of Dental Medicine provides students with training, experience and skills in the application of modifications that enable safe, efficient and effective dental treatment of special needs patients. Students complete classroom training related to the care and understanding of special needs individuals. In addition, pre-doctoral dental students, dental hygiene students, and dental residents rotate through the CPSN, providing them with hands-on, supervised treatment, which forms the core of the training program in the Center for Patients with Special Needs.

A multidisciplinary faculty, representing various departments at the School of Dental Medicine oversees all student clinical efforts.

Become a Patient at the Center for Patients with Special Needs

The Center for Patients with Special Needs provides a full range of services, including dental cleanings and X-rays, restorative dentistry, root canals (endodontics,) and oral surgery.

Oral health care is provided by pre-doctoral dental students, dental hygiene students and postgraduate residents from various disciplines. The parameters of care for special needs dentistry encompass all disciplines of dental care in conjunction with such departments as Pediatric Dentistry, Dental Anesthesiology and other dental and medical specialties at Pitt Dental Medicine and UPMC. Patient management techniques may include, but are not limited to, behavior guidance and pharmacological management modalities such as nitrous oxide sedation, IV sedation and general anesthesia.

Patients who do not require specialized care will be referred to other appropriate Pitt Dental Medicine clinics. Those who do not fit the patient or treatment criteria for the CPSN, or those who are non-compliant with University policies and procedures, may not receive care.

Please bring with you to your appointment the name(s) and dosage(s) of any medications currently being taken; photo identification; and all insurance information. Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to allow for registration.

For more information about becoming a patient in the Center for Patients with Special Needs, please call 412-648-3039 (for patients 16 years old and over) or 412-648-8930 (for patients under the age of 16).