Newswise — NYU College of Dentistry’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry has received a nearly $2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to train dentists and other health professionals to provide oral health care to people with disabilities and complex medical conditions. This is the fourth HRSA grant awarded to the Department of Pediatric Dentistry since 2015. 

The Bridging the Gap program, led by Courtney H. Chinn, DDS, MPH, clinical associate professor and associate chair of pediatric dentistry at NYU Dentistry, will integrate this training into NYU’s existing Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry and will create new training programs and curricula to educate general dentists and dental hygienists on caring for patients with disabilities. 

“People with disabilities and complex medical conditions face too many barriers in accessing oral health services, including finding a dentist with the skills and capabilities to manage their care. We are working to build a competent and compassionate dental workforce to care for people with these unique needs, ensuring that dentists have the skills for, and commitment to, caring for vulnerable populations,” said Chinn.

While some dental programs may focus on people with disabilities, special needs dentistry is not formally recognized as an accredited specialty.  Many general dentists lack the skills, experience, or capacity to care for people with disabilities. Historically, given their training, pediatric dentists have been the primary dental professionals to serve people with disabilities, but there are not enough pediatric dentists and they are often unable to continue caring for these patients after they reach adulthood. 

Moreover, some people with disabilities and medical conditions have poor oral health due to difficulty with daily activities like brushing their teeth or the medications they take. Patients are often forced to forego preventive care in a dentist’s office and are only seen in hospital operating rooms or under sedation—and only when a dental emergency occurs.   

To address this public health need, NYU Dentistry opened its new Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities in early 2019 to provide much-needed care for people whose disabilities or medical conditions prevent them from receiving care in a conventional dental setting. The center includes specialized equipment, sedation suites, and a multisensory room--and importantly, offers a unique training opportunity.

The Bridging the Gap program will train pediatric dental postgraduate students to care for people with disabilities, including developing and implementing a new curriculum and enhancing their clinical experiences through rotations at the NYU Dentistry Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities and NYU’s school-based dental care program in New York City schools. 

Bridging the Gap will also provide training for other health professionals. NYU Dentistry will create a one-year program for dentists and dental hygienists caring for children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities. The program will also partner with NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing to pilot a teledentistry program in which nurse practitioner students doing clinical rotations in New York City schools and other community settings will connect people with disabilities to NYU Dentistry for virtual treatment planning and referrals.  

Throughout the program, Chinn and his team will evaluate its success through pre- and post-surveys of trainees to measure their confidence in treating people with disabilities and intent to treat vulnerable populations.  

The five-year grant (D88HP37550-01-00) begins July 1, 2020, with the training programs launching in September 2021. Each year, 16 pediatric dental postdoctoral students and up to three general dentists and/or dental hygienists are expected to participate in the program, along with many additional interprofessional students.


About NYU College of Dentistry

Founded in 1865, New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the US, educating nearly 10 percent of the nation’s dentists. NYU Dentistry has a significant global reach with a highly diverse student body. Visit for more.