The RCSEd Diploma in Special Care Dentistry – Interview with a Successful Candidate

The RCSEd Diploma in Special Care Dentistry – Interview with a Successful Candidate

The Diploma in Special Care Dentistry exam is designed to test the candidate's applied clinical knowledge, clinical reasoning and problem solving skills at a sub-specialist level. This exam is aimed at Specialist Trainees, CDS/PDS Dentists and Core Trainees interested in pursuing a career in Special Care Dentistry. Achieving this Diploma allows candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of Special Care Dentistry, as well as their clinical reasoning and clinical problem solving skills.

We spoke with Kirsty Reynolds, Community Dentist, who recently passed her RCSEd Diploma in Special Care Dentistry. Kirsty talks about her experience with the exam and the tips she would give to those considering completing the Diploma in Special Care Dentistry.

 When did you complete the diploma in Special Care Dentistry?

"I completed the diploma in SCD in September 2022 in Edinburgh. The exam was over 3 days with unseen cases on days one and two and then the morning of the third day was the SBA written paper."

Has completing the Diploma in SCD made a difference to your clinical practice and job role?

"I have been working in special care dentistry since 2007 and currently work as a Community Dental Officer on the Isle of Man. I see a huge range of patients including patients with complex needs. The diploma allowed me to consolidate and enhance my knowledge and has impacted on my clinical care by improving my understanding of the needs of the special care patients. I also try and share some case studies with my colleagues to promote good practice and ask for other opinions on how these cases could or should be managed."

How did you find the SBA paper?

"I found the SBA paper quite intense; it covered a really broad range of subjects. For a few questions, I found that picking a single answer was really quite tricky as I would have preferred to give a written explanation as to why I chose that answer! As we know special care is not always a black and white subject, there are many grey areas!

The paper covered lots of areas, from microbiology right through to ethical questions. I found it best to go through and answer all the questions I was certain of and noting down the ones I wanted to come back to. The key is not to panic but just keep answering the questions. I finished the paper with around 10 minutes left to go back and check over the answers, although it’s guaranteed I changed my initial answers on a couple, from the right ones to the wrong ones!"

How were the unseen cases?

"The unseen cases again really intense the 5 minutes prep time goes really fast. Read the case study through, you do not need to write each question out as you can take your notes in and write on the questions. I used the ACCESS acronym to note down all the access issues for the patient, communication, consent, education, surgery, and special care issues.

Listen to the questions that the examiners ask as they aren’t always what you think they are asking, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question."

What were the examiners like?

"I found that the lack of facial expression was really one of the most challenging aspects, as you don’t get any feedback from the body language! As clinicians I think we are all quite skilled in reading the person and when this isn’t available it is really odd!

The support staff from the college are lovely and supportive and when the lead examiner comes to speak to you as a group, please don’t be afraid to ask questions – even if they sound stupid, generally it is what the other people are thinking too!"

How did I prepare for the exam?

"I work full time and have two children that I am a permanent taxi for, plus two dogs, so making sure I put time aside to study was essential. This isn’t an exam you can do if you don’t put time into the studying!

Every one of us studies differently, however my studying was quite patient-centred. I would pick the topic I planned to study, then I would think of a patient who has the condition; say someone who has had a stroke; first I would define what the condition is and how does it affect the oral cavity. What are the associated comorbidities and their impact on providing care?

I would then look at the ACCESS acronym again to break my learning down:

Access: What are their access issues to come into the clinic? Do they need someone to bring them and what barriers to their care does that lead to, home visits? Do they need hoisted, wheelchair ramps etc?

Communication: What difficulties would the patient encounter with the communication? Have they verbal communication? Is the verbal communication limited to closed questioning? Do they use alternate communication aids: PECS, eye gaze technology? Can they communicate?

Consent: Can they consent? Capacity assessment? Best interest decisions (know this for where you work, but equally understand the English and Scottish law)?

Education: What are the education needs for the patient and or carers? Do they need increased fluoride? Adapted toothbrushes? Are interproximal cleaning aids practical? What is their diet?

Surgery: How does the condition affect how you are going to manage the patient? What treatment modality would you choose – risks vs benefits? What time of day is better for the patient? Are there any tests that are required prior to treatment commencing, INRs etc?

Special Care Issues: at this point I noted down any of the relevant guidelines that may been important for that case or the medical emergencies that may arise related to that condition. Think about medication impact on the treatment plan also, what are the common drugs their side effects? Should we be thinking about shortened dental arches or advanced restorative care?

The more I related it to the patients I treat, the easier it was for me to retain the information and then to apply the knowledge."

Do you have any handy tips?

To help with my revision I used:

  1. Scully C, Diz Dios P, Kumar N. Special Care in Dentistry: Handbook of Oral Healthcare. Elsevier LTD; 2007
  2. Diz Dios P, Kumar N. A Practical Approach to Special Care in Dentistry. Wiley and Sons LTD; 2022
  3. I also used an app called Quizlet© ( I used this app to put my revision notes down and then they are available on the app to use when you have 10 mins here or there. 

By choosing to sit your Diploma in Special Care Dentistry examination with us, you will be joining our membership network of more than 30,000 professionals in over 100 countries worldwide. As well as joining a College renowned for its heritage and innovation, the College offers a wide range of Membership services to support you through every step in your career and professional development.

Find out more about the Diploma in Special Care Dentistry exam and register your interest for the September 2023 diet here



back to top of page