Child Protection Evidence - Dental neglect

Child Protection Evidence is a resource available for clinicians across the UK and internationally to inform clinical practice, child protection procedures and professional and expert opinion on the legal system. This systematic review evaluates the literature on dental neglect.

About the review

This systematic review evaluates the scientific literature on dental neglect published up until November 2014.

It aims to answer the following clinical question:

  • What are the parent/carer characteristics of a child with dental neglect, and what oral features are present in these children?

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse but frequently goes unrecognised.

This review studies the effects of dental neglect by looking at:

  • the parent/carer characteristics in those who fail or delay in seeking dental treatment
  • those who fail to follow the dental advice given
  • those who fail to provide basic oral care.

The implications for practice and research, and other useful references are included in the review.

Key findings

  • Failure to attend appointments when the child is experiencing pain or discomfort, or failure to adhere to a recommended treatment plan should prompt a full investigation of the explanation for this.
  • Given the varying prevalence of caries amongst young children in Western populations, it is impossible to define a precise threshold for dental neglect based on this feature. However, a child who is experiencing pain, discomfort, social embarrassment or medical complications as a consequence of caries should be attending for appropriate treatment.
  • Dentists are strongly encouraged to collaborate with their local safeguarding/child protection team in order to ensure that prompt and appropriate referrals are made when concerns regarding dental neglect arise.

Disclaimer: This is a summary of the systematic review findings up to the date of our most recent literature search. If you have a specific clinical case, we strongly recommend you read all of the relevant references as cited and look for additional material published outside our search dates.

Original reviews and content © Cardiff University, funded by NSPCC
Published by RCPCH July 2017

While the format of each review has been revised to fit the style of the College and amalgamated into a comprehensive document, the content remains unchanged until reviewed and new evidence is identified and added to the evidence-base. Updated content will be indicated on individual review pages.