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Community and mental health services for Southampton, Portsmouth and parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


Shining a light on Special Care Dental

Vicky Watkinson, Lead Learning Disability Liaison Dental Nurse at Solent NHS Trust, shares a glimpse into her role in the Special Care Dental Service.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

“As a wife, a mother of three children, and proud owner of Buddy, our Hungarian Viszla, I am well- versed in juggling multiple responsibilities. From managing my husband’s business admin to supporting my ageing mother, I strive to find balance in my life. My hobbies and interests are my family.”


What is Special Care Dental?

“If you'd asked me when I was working in general dentistry, I would have said it was where we referred all our more complex patients that we couldn't support in general practice. However, it is so much more than that. It encompasses a wide range of individuals with unique needs. No two days are alike, and each day presents new challenges, from medically compromised patients to individuals with severe dental phobia who struggle with the thought of sitting in a dental chair.

“Building trust with our service users, especially those who may be non-verbal, requires dedicated effort. Communication and understanding can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and training, most obstacles can be overcome. We are fortunate to receive comprehensive training, including Dental Immediate Life Support (DILS), Makaton training, inhalation sedation training, and more.

“I have a nephew who uses our service, our team worked with him to confirm he has the capacity to make his own decisions. This empowered him to make his own decisions about his dental care, enabling him to express his wishes and needs autonomously.”


What are your roles within Special Care Dental?

“I have two official job roles as part of the Special Care Dental Service.

“Firstly, I serve as the Learning Disability Liaison Dental Nurse for the service, which is a varied role primarily focused on improving patients' experiences. Many of our service users have a learning disability, so we work to identify their needs and cater to them in caring and compassionate ways.

“Collaborating with the accessible information champions and a learning disability focus group, I create resources to support individuals with learning disabilities. I strongly believe in the motto ‘no decision about me, without me’, and as an advocate I strive to empower our service users and make positive changes in their lives. Many people with a learning disability feel unheard, which is why I am committed to giving them a voice within our service.

“In my second role, I work as an Oral Health Educator for the Oral Health Team. Our team delivers supervised brushing programmes in preschools and nurseries while providing training to staff on the importance of oral health and implementation. 

“Working closely with various professionals like school nurses, health visitors, teachers, speech and language therapists, and learning disability teams allow us to work collectively in the best interests of our service users. I also provide training in oral health updates, and 1-1 behaviour interventions at various venues in our communities.


How did you come to work for Solent?

“My journey began with an apprenticeship to become a dental nurse after I finished school. Once I completed my apprenticeship, I joined a dental practice and obtained my Oral Health qualification. I thoroughly enjoyed my role however, when the practice underwent a change in ownership, the new corporate owners did not value the role of an oral health educator, resulting in me being reassigned to clinical dental nurse duties. After 23 years of service, I made the decision to leave as I felt our focus shifted away from the well-being of our patients.”


Final reflections?

“Many people do not consider the challenges involved in providing dental care to individuals with learning disabilities, dental phobia, complex medical histories, bariatric requirements, care home residents or palliative care patients. However, our focus in Special Care Dental is precisely on catering to these individuals’ needs. It is truly rewarding when we establish trust and respect with our patients. This field requires dedication, but the impact we make on these individuals’ lives is invaluable.”

Discover more about Solent’s Specialist Dental service. Also view the virtual tour video.

Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

Please visit our services page for specific services and contact details. Alternatively, contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service by emailing or calling the number below. You can also give us feedback, make a complaint or share a compliment.

0800 013 2319

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The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was passed on 30 November 2000. It gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, with full access granted in January 2005.

The Act sets out exemptions to that right and places certain obligations on public authorities.


Phone: 0300 123 3919

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Our administrative and managerial centre is based in Southampton.

While our services can be found around various NHS locations in Southampton and Portsmouth (and surrounding districts), our administrative and managerial centre is based in Southampton at:

Highpoint Venue
Bursledon Road
SO19 8BR

If you require a printable version of how to find us including bus times, car access and bike info please download our leaflet. (Copyright of Highpoint Venue).

Central office phone: 0300 123 3390

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0300 123 4156 or 02381 031076

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