About Our Dental Office

Our History


Special Need Dental was founded in 1985 as ‘Melvin L. Shanley, DDS PC’. Dr. Shanley was a special needs trailblazer in the San Antonio dental community, with a passion for helping those with different abilities.

Like all of us, Dr. Shanley and his late wife Terry have a personal connection to the community with their beautiful granddaughter Penelope.

At the end of 2019, Dr. Shanley and Terry retired, and the practice was renamed “Special Need Dental” to reflect the enduring mission of enabling beautiful smiles, and providing a comfortable, compassionate environment for the members of the special needs community.

Our Providers


  • Austin: Dr. Nazgol Gharbi
  • Houston: Dr. Jessica Park, Dr. Salimah Shariff, Dr. Layla Daoudi
  • San Antonio: Dr. Karan Shah, Dr. Tam Van, Dr. Praveen Kumar, Dr. Clark Hepworth, Tracy, Jessica, Mckayla, Rosie

Our Administrative Team


  • Houston: Lori, Derek
  • San Antonio: Rachel, Christina, Emerald
  • Company Leadership: Jonathan Jardine

Our Owners


Dr. Shah

Dr. Karan Shah’s journey to dentistry began with his family's ideals of community service. Family values inspire Dr. Shah’s compassion and curiosity, and the desire to spend extra time with each individual patient. Through dentistry he enjoys the ability to make a profound impact on an individual's life and well-being, while enabling his own personal growth through rigorous continuing education courses and the implementation of the latest technological and therapeutic advancements.

Dr. Shah earned his bachelor’s degree in dental surgery in India. He moved to the United States to continue his education, first with a master’s degree in public health at the University of North Texas, followed by a Doctorate in Dental Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, where he expanded his skills in hospital dentistry.

Dr. Shah returned to Texas upon graduation, and has worked in San Antonio since 2017. He is grateful for the patients and staff at Special Need Dental, and the chance to continue to develop his skills in comprehensive dental care, full mouth rehabilitation, implant surgery, and aesthetic dentistry.

Outside of work you may run into Dr. Shah at your local hiking trails or new restaurants. He loves meeting new people, traveling, biking, playing tennis and board games, and watching TV.

Dr. Shah

Dr. Ferguson

Dr. David Ferguson spent the majority of his childhood in Lansing, Michigan, where his father worked with the I/DD community. From his early childhood Dr. Ferguson loved the opportunity to volunteer with the Special Olympics. While an undergraduate student, he took two years off to volunteer as a missionary for his church in Bulgaria, where he gained a deeper appreciation for public health institutions and professionals.

As a child, Dr. Ferguson also benefited from braces, which profoundly improved his self-confidence and inspired him to help others in the same way. After graduating at the top of his dental school class at The Ohio State University, he practiced as a general dentist in public health clinics and Alaska Indian reservations. Dr. Ferguson subsequently completed a residency in orthodontics at Jacksonville University, where he was awarded the prestigious Theodore Jerrold award as the top orthodontic resident.

Determined to bring the benefits of oral health to as many people as possible, Dr. Ferguson has pursued partnerships with a wide variety of healthcare providers in multiple settings, including public schools, on-site geriatric dentistry, and most recently Special Need Dental. In addition to creating beautiful smiles with each individual patient, Dr. Ferguson aspires to tackle complex clinical and systemic challenges, and build upon the enduring legacies of Dr. Shanley and his many healthcare mentors.

Dr. Ferguson