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A major milestone in child protection

The role that dental teams can play in the management of young patients who might be at risk of dental neglect was explored at a conference organised by the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN).

A symposium on oral health titled ‘Mouth Matters’ was an integral part of the conference and represented a major milestone in child protection, being the first time that the link between dental neglect and safeguarding of children has been explored in detail at a BASPCAN event.

Jenny Harris, a Consultant in Community Paediatric Dentistry from Sheffield and the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry’s Safeguarding Children representative ran the symposium. She was supported by paediatric dentistry speakers from 4 other centres, pictured (l-r with Jenny in the middle): Dr Susan Parekh, Dr Elizabeth O'Sullivan, Professor Barbara Chadwick and Dr Richard Balmer.

A series of introductory presentations reviewed current knowledge, providing an overview of childhood dental disease and its consequences, and explored contemporary approaches to dental treatment and management of dental neglect.

The conference also heard about projects examining the follow up of families who fail to attend dental appointments (DNAs).  The first was a retrospective service evaluation of safeguarding activity in a Hull dental general anaesthesia referral service. As a result of the evaluation, a multi-disciplinary team approach may begin to address issues for those families who fail to engage with dental services.

The second was an audit of follow-up procedures for patients who did not attend appointments in the Paediatric Department at the Eastman Dental Hospital. A department protocol was developed to ensure follow up of all patients who DNA.  Following the re-audit undertaken, changes were made to the protocols and how information is disseminated to all levels of staff with the aim of reducing DNAs.

Said Dr Harris, “Our aim was to stimulate discussion about the untapped potential of the dental team to

  • identify children who may benefit from early intervention to safeguard their welfare;
  • benefit from paediatric dentistry input to practitioners’ assessments of neglected children;
  • to work together to plan interventions to protect and support children and families.

In addition to the five participants in the symposium, two other paediatric dentists, Alison Cairns and Christine Park, presented their work at the conference.

Said Dr Harris: “The safeguarding of children is a topic that concerns all health professionals. The General Dental Council has just made it a recommended subject for CPD.”

“We are hopeful that in future there is going to be more integrated working between health professionals in all fields as dental neglect is recognised as being a potential marker of neglect. This symposium was a very positive step towards a more collaborative approach.”

Posted by Gemma

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