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When a photographer calls out ‘Say cheese’, we put on our best smile and sometimes our teeth too. The healthier those teeth are, the happier you look. Hoping to help you better in that aspect, a new policy claims that dentists should examine for tell-tale signs of neglect when treating children with severe oral diseases. The policy document on dental neglect in children was co-authored by Dr Peter Sidebotham from the University of Warwick.

A persistent failure to meet a child’s basic oral health needs is known as dental neglect. A considerable impact on the health of a child may be seen due to oral diseases. Severe pain, loss of sleep and even reductions in body and growth may be seen owing to oral diseases.

Dental neglect is thought to be indicative of a wider welfare picture of child neglect and abuse. As per the policy, if dentists have concerns, they should apparently refer cases to child protection services. The document is claimed to be first of its kind in Europe. It is apparently the result of a group effort between the University of Warwick, University of Sheffield and Leeds Dental Institute.

Dr Sidebotham commented, “There is evidence which indicates that abused children have higher levels of untreated dental disease than their non-abused peers. Many dentists have taken part in child protection training, but still find it difficult to put into practice what they have learned when they suspect abuse.”

Adding to it, Dr Sidebotham mentioned, “I am impressed by how much dentists already do to educate and support parents. But when concerned that a child is suffering, perhaps as a result of missed appointments, I would always encourage them to seek advice from other health professionals experience in child protection and, if necessary, to make a child protection referral.”

Several factors that need to be taken into account when the child is evaluated with suspected dental neglect and the proper guidance as to how the dental team should respond is detailed in the policy.

It is published in the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry.