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Department of Oral Medicine

DECOD Program

Dental Education in the Care of Persons with Disabilities

DECOD (Dental Education in Care of Persons with Disabilities) at the University of Washington School of Dentistry was established in 1974 to train dental professionals in providing dental care to persons with disabilities.

DECOD provides approximately 3,500 dental visits per year to persons with disabilities. It is a major resource for Washington citizens who have developmental or acquired disabilities.

Approximately 70 percent have developmental disabilities ( examples: intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism), the remaining 30 percent have acquired disabilities (e.g. traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, ALS). The majority of patients are enrolled in Apple Health Washington state insurance.

  DECOD Goals

  • Clinical Services – DECOD provides dental care that is not otherwise available in the community for patients with developmental and acquired disabilities. Clinical services include diagnostic, emergency, and comprehensive dental and oral health care services. The goal is to improve oral health and contribute to the well-being and oral function of clinic patients.
  • Education – DECOD seeks to broaden the pool of dental providers by providing hands-on training and exposure to patients with developmental and acquired disabilities. The goal is that more clinicians will see patients with disabilities in their practices to strengthen and expand patient care capacity across the state of Washington and nationally.
  • Quality – DECOD is a teaching institution committed to improving quality of care for patients with disabilities.

Qualifying Disabilities

Qualifying Disabilities
Developmental disabilities Acquired disabilities – the following acquired disabilities are qualifying at this time
Cerebral Palsy
Intellectual Disability
Down syndrome
Traumatic Brain Injury
Muscular Dystrophy

Clinical Instruction

The DECOD Program at the University of Washington is a special program of the School of Dentistry that prepares dental professionals to meet the special oral health needs of persons with disabilities

The DECOD Clinic works hard to provide dental Providers training in treatment of Patients with Special needs through all phases in their Dental careers.

DECOD Instruction

We provide training to dental students, dental hygiene students and dental assisting students. Our dental hygiene and Dental assisting students come to our clinic to receive training through our partnerships with hygiene and assisting programs throughout the state of Washington. All University of Washington dental students rotate through the DECOD clinic in the 3rd year of dental school as part of the Oral Medicine Clerkship program. All 4th year dental students spend 1 week in DECOD to expand and solidify the skills acquired in the clerkship.

We offer a DECOD elective to 4th year students interested in further training in special care dentistry in which the student see patients in the DECOD one clinical session per week for one quarter to learn better assess and treat patients with disabilities.

The DECOD student fellowship is offered to dental students during the 4th year. The Student Fellowship is designed for dental students who have completed the DECOD elective and express an exceptional interest in special care dentistry. The student fellowship will include didactic and supervised clinical care for persons with disabilities.

The University of Washington Department General Practice Residency (GPR) Program in partnership the DECOD program is excited to host one PGY2 position in special care dentistry. This Partnership began 2015. GPR PGY2 special car dentistry residents must have completed an accredited AEGD of GPR PGY1. Residents will not only complete a second year of General Practice Residency but they will also complete a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) fellowship. Prospective residents should aspire to become leaders in special care dentistry and advocate for patients with special needs. Such leadership may take the form of teaching, research, clinical practice, administration or policy making.


For more information one the PGY2 position and application process please visit the GPR page.

DECOD offers a one month fellowship for practicing dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants. This fellowship is designed for those already in the dental workforce who are interested in expanding their skill and knowledge regarding the dental care of patients with disabilities. Chairside training and supervised delivery of care is emphasized. 100 hours of continuing education credit and a certificate is offered upon completion of the DECOD fellowship.


DECOD offers a one month fellowship for practicing dentist dental hygienists and dental assistants. The fellowship requires 20 clinical days of clinical training at The University of Washington and 5 days of special care didactic training.

DECOD Clinical training will cover

  • Adaptations to care for patients with disabilities.
  • Risk assessment and treatment planning for patients with special health care needs.
  • Treatment of medically complex patients.
  • Communication strategies for patients with special health care needs.
  • Working with caregivers to maintain oral health for persons with disabilities.
  • Treatment of patients with dental anxiety through desensitization and or oral sedation.

Other areas of clinical which may be covered include geriatric care for patients in long term facilities. The geriatric portion of the fellowship is provided at the fellows’ request and dependent on clinic availability.

How to apply

All applicants must have a Current US license or be licensed in Canada or Puerto Rico. Applicants are allowed to complete one DECOD fellowship per calendar year.

  • Application
  • 1-2 letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement describing your interest in the fellowship and how you hope to apply the fellowship skills learned.