The Dentist Magazine.

The jigsaw of care essential to tackle dental neglect

Published: 10/31/2018 12:00:00 AM

Dentistry is part of a jigsaw of care which is essential to identify and support children at risk of dental neglect and possibly wider neglect, says Claire Stevens, spokesperson for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry.

Her comment was made on BBC Breakfast where she was interviewed about a paper published today in the British Dental Journal. The paper is based on a retrospective audit of 27 children treated for severe dental infection at King’s College Hospital between 2015 and 2017.  More than half of the children were between five and eight years old and eleven of the 27 were already known to social services.

The authors recommend that children needing treatment for a severe infection should have their case discussed with the local safeguarding team and possibly referred to social services.

Claire said that as soon as there were welfare concerns about a child, a phone call would be made at her hospital to the safeguarding team. She said, “Dentistry needs to be part of a bigger picture which shares information. We are trained to work with all other healthcare professionals.”

“If I have a child who comes in to see me and I have concerns about them I will talk to the GP, I will talk to the health visitor and I will talk to the school nurse. It’s about sharing information.”

Claire referenced the seminal Child Protection and the Dental Team, published twelve years ago, which sets out the steps that need to be taken by the dental team should they be concerned about a child’s welfare. The essential guidance identifies that there should be a jigsaw of care which comes together to protect children at risk.

Speaking after the programme, Claire added, “This BDJ paper throws into sharp relief the risks of untreated dental decay. Children with severe infection are at risk of sepsis and other potentially fatal conditions and need life-saving treatment.”

“We have the guidance, now we need joined up working so that as a society we can identify these children before they need life-saving treatment. Children’s oral health is everyone’s business.”

Jenny Harris, BSPD’s safeguarding authority, said that vulnerable children and young people were often seen in the Community Dental Service, where she has a role, “Safeguarding responsibilities have had a major impact on our work and need to be supported by adequate resources. We would like to see this aspect of our role recognised in all ways so we can continue to drive forward our work in protecting the vulnerable.”