BSPD’s policy document on dental neglect in children, which was originally developed and published in 2009, has now been updated and published as an open-access paper in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry (IJPD).

The original dental neglect policy followed Child Protection and the Dental Team, which was a significant document that first raised awareness in the UK of dental neglect and was the point at which the urgent need for guidance for dental professionals was recognised.

Dental neglect policy updates

Importantly, the recommendations are broadly unchanged: at its heart remains the use of a three-tier model for responding to concerns. However, the new policy now reflects progress since 2009 in the understanding of dental neglect. An expanded section focuses on the broader impacts of dental disease.

The update also includes references to examples of good practices that have developed over the intervening 14 years. The revised version is now written with the needs of both dental professionals and non-dental healthcare professionals in mind. The changes were made in response to feedback gathered via a focus group – and then modified further after consultation with stakeholders.

Why does an up-to-date dental neglect policy matter?

Dental neglect may occur in isolation or may be an indicator of a wider picture of neglect or abuse. Dental neglect may even be the first sign of child maltreatment. Dental professionals must know what to do if they are concerned about a child. Dental neglect is very common, so we are likely to encounter it frequently – indeed, a survey in 2016 showed that 62 per cent of paediatric dentists come across children with neglected dentitions daily or more often. This was unchanged since the previous survey in 2005.

The team responsible for the dental neglect policy document update was led by Lucy Ridsdale, who joined the original authorship team of Jenny Harris, Richard Balmer and Professor Peter Sidebotham, together with new members Fiona Gilchrist and, representing the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Ruth Skelton.

Dr Jenny Harris, BSPD past-president, said, “BSPD’s mission is to uphold the overall wellbeing of children and key to this is encouraging good safeguarding practice in dentistry. Keeping our research and recommendations up to date is important to ensure that those working within the dental profession are well-informed about dental neglect and its significance as a flag to overall neglect. I am extremely grateful to the diligent team of colleagues who worked with me on this updated policy document as we all continue to campaign for a reduction in oral health inequalities.”

Read the document here