“Wonderful” dentist caring for special-needs community

Specialist: Emma Jay is a unique dentist working solely with special-needs patients. Picture: John Veage
Specialist: Emma Jay is a unique dentist working solely with special-needs patients. Picture: John Veage

Emma Jay isn’t your usual dentist.

Dr Jay works solely with special-needs patients.

She is one of two registered dentists specialising in that field in NSW, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA).

Her patients include a wide range of people living with mental or physical disabilities or dental phobias. 

Dr Jay spends a lot of her time working out of Kogarah and Miranda, and told the Leader one of the most rewarding parts of her job was meeting fascinating people.

“The people are really interesting,” she said. “The carers and parents – they do an amazing job and I really enjoy meeting all those people.”

She explained there were plenty of strategies to care for people living with special needs who were in need of dental work.

For example, she said she would often use a heavy blanket on patients which stopped them moving around and kept them calm, or even simply got patients to hold something in their hands as a distraction.

While that may sound simple, Caringbah’s Kay Sanger said it was something entirely different to actually see the humble Dr Jay at work.

Ms Sanger said she was blown away watching Dr Jay care for her son, Matthew Sanger, who suffers from a severe intellectual disability.

“Matthew lives in a home in Caringbah and a carer has come with me every time [to visit Dr Jay] and they think she is like a miracle worker,” she said. “She is absolutely brilliant. She is just wonderful with him.”

Australian Dental Association (ADA) NSW president Sabrina Manickam said specialist dentists, who deal with special-needs patients, were few and far between.

“There are only a handful of dentists in Australia who are registered specialists in special needs dentistry, and they’re some of the most versatile and flexible members of our profession.

“The work they do is so important because people with intellectual or physical disabilities, or medical conditions, or mental health needs can be at increased risk of oral health problems,” she said.

“Having a dentist who’s experienced in treating patients with special needs can help improve their overall health and quality of life.”

Dr Jay works out of practices in Kogarah, Miranda and Crows Nest, as well as St George Private Hospital and a few retirement homes across Sydney, through her own business The Special Needs Dentistry Practice.

She graduated from the University of Sydney and worked in the Sydney Dental Hospital during the 1990s, before moving to Westmead Hospital in 2000. It was there that she worked in the special care dentistry unit and began specialising in special-needs dentistry.

Dr Jay now lives in Summer Hill and grew up in Albury.