GPs are not given the time or training to spot the signs of dental neglect, new research has shown.
The study, published in the British Dental Journal, surveyed GPs in the Isle of Wight to discover their awareness and perceptions of dental health.
Of the respondents, 96% had never received any formal dental training, whilst some didn’t believe dental health was important.
Only five GPs mentioned a link between a lack of dental registration and childhood neglect and no GPs worked at clinics where child dental registration status was recorded.
‘Tooth decay can be a tell-tale sign of abuse or neglect, and many children are falling through the cracks in a siloed health service,’ BDA’s chair of General Dental Practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said.
‘GPs bear an enormous burden and it cannot fall to them to “multitask”, when Government is failing to deal with the problem.
‘Tooth decay is the number one reason for child hospital admissions, but dentists are not seeing those at most risk early enough to make a difference.
‘Poverty, neglect or ignorance can be huge barriers to good oral health, and we desperately need joined-up policymaking to tackle them.’
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Lacking in time, training and confidence
GPs lack time, training and confidence to identify dental neglect during an examination of the oropharynx, the BDA claims.
Dental neglect is a marker of child neglect and the BDA believes that this lack of awareness could be a potential marker of wider systemic neglect.
Official data shows that 41.8% of children in England had not been to see a dentist for a check-up in the 12 months up to June 2017.
‘Oral health has such a low profile that it is not surprising that awareness of its importance is low in other parts of the NHS,’ Henrik continued.
‘When we face an epidemic of decay, dentistry can’t be left in a corner.
‘Without meaningful engagement in education, in media and across the health service we simply cannot expect progress.’
Colgan SM, Randall PG and Porter JDH (2018) ‘Bridging the gap’ – A survey of medical GPs’ awareness of child dental neglect as a marker of potential systemic child neglect The British Dental Journal 224 (9): 717-25