The Dentist Magazine.

Child-friendly services require child-focused terminology

Published: 06/07/2017

A call for the terminology of dental appointments to be made more sensitive to the needs of children has been made by Jenny Harris, a member of the BSPD executive and the society’s lead on child protection issues. She wants dentists to drop the acronym DNA, which stands for ‘did not attend’, and change to WNB for ‘was not brought’.

The reason for the change, she explains, is to remind dental teams that the child who does not turn up for an appointment is not responsible for his or her absence. To benefit from dental care they are reliant on others to bring them. If they miss an appointment without explanation, enquiries need to be made of their parent or guardian.

Jenny said, “Although the difference between the phrases DNA and WNB may seem slight, the gulf in meaning is wide. A young child cannot get to an appointment on their own – we need to stop seeing things from an adult point of view. Instead we must consider what the child is missing out on by not being brought.”

She first encountered the proposal for a change in terminology in an article published in the child protection nursing literature and has used the acronym WNB for missed appointments ever since. And recently she has gone further. With colleagues in Sheffield Community & Special Care Dentistry Service, she has devised a ‘Was not brought’ pathway.

“When you have a series of missed appointments”, she said, “it’s difficult to take things forward.  On the other hand, concerns cannot be ignored but need to be flagged up. The new tool gives dental teams a template to manage decision-making and to follow up with parents or health or social services to ensure the child isn’t being neglected.

“Our priority is that the child gets the healthcare they need. Missed appointments are a problem we all struggle with but there seems to be a hunger to do better.”

The pathway is being evaluated by Jen Kirby, a specialty trainee in paediatric dentistry and leadership fellow. Jen will be delivering the results of her evaluation at the BSPD conference at Salford Quays, Manchester, in September.