The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry defines special health care needs as “any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, health care intervention, and/or use of specialized services or programs. The condition may be developmental or acquired and may cause limitations in performing daily self-maintenance activities or substantial limitations in a major life activity. Health care for individuals with special needs requires specialized knowledge, increased awareness and attention, adaptation, and accommodative measures beyond what are considered routine.”

The Academy has also found that patients with special health care needs who have a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine care. The dental home provides an opportunity to implement individualized preventive oral health practices and reduces the child’s risk of preventable dental/oral disease.