Early intervention can help in child protection issues


For immediate release: Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Dentists are urged to act swiftly if they have any concerns regarding child protection issues, says UK-wide dental defence organisation MDDUS.

Practitioners frequently contact MDDUS unsure of how to proceed when they suspect a child’s welfare is at risk and MDDUS dental adviser Rachael Bell reminds dentists of their ethical duty to protect these children at risk of harm.

“We would ask all practitioners and their dental team to play their part in protecting children and vulnerable adults under their care,” says Bell. “We receive many calls looking for advice on the subject and we advise all dentists to familiarise themselves with local arrangements for child protection.

“Early intervention can make all the difference in cases of suspected abuse or neglect and dentists need to act. However, you should ensure the child’s dental needs are met in the first instance, particularly if they are in pain.

“Ignoring any signs of neglect can have serious implications for the child and the practitioner could face GDC sanctions. It can be helpful to discuss your initial concerns with a colleague but the decision as to whether to act is ultimately the responsibility of the treating dentist.

“It is good practice to try to involve the child’s parents wherever possible with regards to your concerns. However, this is not necessary if you believe contacting the parents would put the child at risk.

“Practitioners may be worried that reporting their suspicions or concerns will result in a patient complaint or even aggression towards the practice and its staff. However, their main concern must always be to put the patient’s interests first, particularly the welfare of any vulnerable child or adult.”

It is also important that signs of dental neglect in children are not ignored. “If a parent consistently fails to bring their child in for check-ups or shows neglect towards their child’s dental needs, then this should be addressed,” says Bell. “Good records of your attempt to address the concerns should be made in the records.

“Dental neglect may only be one aspect of a bigger picture of neglect and the child may face greater risks the dentist is not aware of. In cases of dental neglect, dentists should discuss their concerns with the child’s parents and offer support and guidance.

“If you still have concerns regarding dental neglect, you could liaise with other professionals such as the child’s health visitor to see if they share your concerns or make a decision to contact the local authority social work services.

“The duty child protection officer who deals with primary care concerns will be able to listen to your fears and ensure protection of the child’s identity. A decision can then be made as to whether your concerns should be part of a common assessment.

“Once a decision has been made, the child’s identity, by way of name, address and date of birth, can be disclosed in the patient’s best interests and the officer will guide you as to the next steps in the process.”

The GDC states: “You must take appropriate action if you have concerns about the possible abuse of children or vulnerable adults. You must know who to contact for further advice and how to refer concerns to an appropriate authority such as your local social services department. You must find out about and follow local procedures for protection of children and vulnerable adults.”

Child Protection and the Dental Team offers guidance and information for practitioners on safeguarding children. Information can also be found on your local authority website.


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email rihendry@mddus.com.

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK. For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

For registration, or any login issues, please visit our login page.