Navigate Up

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.


Center for Patients with Special Needs Opens at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine

Center is one of few in the United States solely dedicated to providing dental services for disabled

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 12 – In an effort to provide better access to oral health for patients with disabilities and to train the next generation of dental practitioners to care for them, the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine today opened the Center for Patients with Special Needs. The center will offer diagnostic services, routine prevention and restorative dentistry for those who are physically limited by birth defects, injury or disease, as well as patients with intellectual disabilities, neurological and behavioral disorders and developmental disabilities. The expanded facility is expected to increase patient volume from approximately 600 visits to greater than 2,000 visits a year.

The center is staffed by specialists from the departments of Pediatric Dentistry, lead by Erik Scheifele, DMD, and Anesthesiology, led by Joseph Giovannitti, DMD. Specialty residents, predoctoral students and dental-hygiene students will rotate through the center to expand the pool of future dental practitioners with skills to care for patients with special needs.

“Patients with a variety of physical and mental disabilities generally have a hard time finding dental providers who are willing or able to treat them. For more than 40 years, the School of Dental Medicine has served as a provider of, and educator in, special-needs dentistry. This will substantially increase the capacity for treatment of this largely underserved population,” said Thomas W. Braun, DMD, Ph.D., dean, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “Additionally, there is growing scientific evidence that supports the relationship between oral and general health, so it is vitally important to provide patients who have special needs with access to good dental care. The uniqueness of the center is based on the restructured curriculum to assure all graduating students have a level of comfort and experience dealing with patients who have disabilities.”

The center will provide individualized care based on a patient’s medical history, behavioral needs and dental issues. It is equipped with six dedicated multi-specialty treatment rooms, including two private treatment areas for general anesthesia, a recovery room and expanded waiting area with private alcoves that will reduce wait times for appointments. A curbside entrance ramp leads right to the main entrance via an automatic door, allowing for safe and easy access for patients with physical disabilities.

“A lot of sophisticated planning and engineering has gone into this new center. From redesigning the curbside access ramp to the front door, to the state-of-the-art and high-tech conference room where dental practitioners can review cases on a smart board prior to clinic, we are confident that this will revolutionize dental care for this patient population,” said Erik M. Scheifele, DMD, director, Center for Patients with Special Needs and director of the School’s pediatric dentistry residency.

The School of Dental Medicine also plans to offer continuing education for existing dental practitioners and alumni who want to learn how to better serve this patient population.

The School received funding from the University of Pittsburgh to renovate a portion of the facility for special needs dental care, along with support from the FISA Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania to improve the lives of women, girls and people with disabilities, as well as other agencies and individual donors.

The School of Dental Medicine has been an integral part of the University of Pittsburgh’s growth for nearly a century. Established in 1896 as an independent institution named the Pittsburgh Dental College, the school was incorporated into the university in 1905. Like the five other Schools of the Health Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine is affiliated with the internationally renowned academic medical center, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which provides the region’s largest network of tertiary, specialty and community hospitals. Collectively, these facilities provide one of the nation’s most complete health care centers for teaching, patient care and research in the health sciences. For additional information about the School of Dental Medicine, visit

For more information about the Center for Patients with Special Needs, or to schedule an appointment, please call (412) 648-3039.

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |