A new policy on dental neglect in children calls for all dental staff to have regular training in child protection.
The policy explains that a detailed assessment must be carried out in the event of suspected neglect. This should include dental and non-dental factors, as well as the clinical findings, highlighting the importance of training for dental staff.
It states: ‘For clinical staff this [training] must include recognition of signs of abuse and neglect, and how to respond when concerned about a child. This should be a mandatory component at every level: undergraduate, foundation training, special interest, and specialist training.’
The document is the result of a collaboration between the University of Warwick, University of Sheffield and Leeds Dental Institute, for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry.
According to the policy, dental neglect can be defined as the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic oral health needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s oral or general health or development.
Dr Peter Sidebotham from the University of Warwick, who co-authored the policy, said: ‘There is evidence which indicates that abused children have higher levels of untreated dental disease than their non-abused peers. Many dentists have taken part in child protection training, but still find it difficult to put into practice what they have learned when they suspect abuse.’
Dr Sidebotham added: ‘I am impressed by how much dentists already do to educate and support parents. But when concerned that a child is suffering, perhaps as a result of missed appointments, I would always encourage them to seek advice from other health professionals experienced in child protection and, if necessary, to make a child protection referral.’
A statement from the General Dental Council (GDC) said: ‘All General Dental Council registrants are expected to put the interests of their patients first. We expect dentists and other dental professionals to find out about local procedures for child protection. We ask all registrants to make sure they follow these procedures if they suspect a child might be at risk because of abuse or neglect.
‘Professionals have a responsibility to know who to contact for further advice and how to refer to an appropriate authority (such as a local health trust or board).’
The GDC statement can be found on the website at: www.gdc-uk.org/NR/rdonlyres/FFD61DA5-A09E-4B38-8FFB-BA342E9F0AF4/79837/Statementonchildprotectionandvulnerableadults1.pdf
To download a pdf of British Society of Paediatric Dentistry: a policy document on dental neglect in children, please visit www.bspd.co.uk/publication-27.pdf