Special Needs Dentistry Services for Progressive Neurological Diseases provided by Melbourne Dental School

Adam was a retired engineer who suffered from progressive motor neuron disease, which bound him to a wheelchair. Living in an aged care facility, he did not see a dentist for many years, and was suffering from poor oral health.

Due to his complex medical history, physical and cognitive impairments, he was not able to access regular dental care and his wife Georgia struggled with assisting him with oral hygiene.

Our special needs dentistry specialist in training, Dr Sahani Gunathilake, has been running an outreach dental program in the Palliative Care Neurology Unit at Calvary Healthcare Bethlehem, under the supervision of University of Melbourne Specialist Needs Specialist, Dr Hajer Derbi.

Dr Sahani was able to provide oral health-supportive interventions to Adam and supported Georgia with tips to improve his oral hygiene.

When Adam passed away recently, Georgia called us to thank Dr Sahani for being "very good and very kind" and to let her know how grateful she was to her.

Reflecting on the challenges of offering oral care to patients in palliative care, Dr Hajer Derbi acknowledged how confronting it can be. However, when feedback like this is received and we see the difference the program makes to people with terminal illness, it makes all efforts priceless.

Melbourne Dental School also offers a DCD Special Needs Dentistry program as one of its student placements.