Serious dental decay in children may indicate neglect

DENTAL decay requiring hospital care could be a sign that a child is suffering neglect, according to a study published in the BDJ.

Researchers from King's College in London conducted an audit of children below sixteen years who were admitted for oral and maxillofacial surgery for incision and drainage of a dental/facial abscess under general anaesthesia between January 2015 and January 2017.

Among 27 children included in the study 11 children (40 per cent), were known to social services (SS). Five patients out of the 27 were discussed with a trust safeguarding team member during their hospital stay and of these five patients, one new referral to social services was made and three cases were re-referred due to new safeguarding concerns.

On average 3.2 teeth were extracted with an average hospital stay of 2.5 days.

The researchers said: "Our study found, that 40 per cent of children who presented with potential life-threatening dental/maxillofacial space infections were already known to social services. More than 50 per cent of these children were between five and eight years old, suggesting this group are at greater risk of harm and highlighting a potential coincidence of dental neglect and broader global neglect.

"Where parents or carers repeatedly fail to access dental treatment for a child's tooth decay or leave dental tooth pain untreated, 'alarm bells' should ring for clinicians to consider neglect."

They conclude: "Our recommendation is that all children admitted with dental/maxillofacial space infections, where dental neglect may be present, should be discussed with the local safeguarding team."

Source: BDJ