Is Dental Neglect Reasonably Enforceable?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry defines dental neglect as “the willful failure of a parent or guardian to seek and follow through with treatment necessary to ensure a level of oral health essential for adequate function and freedom from pain and infection.” This is important because if left untreated, periodontal diseases and oral conditions can lead to pain, infection, and sometimes, even loss of function. When children experience any of these conditions, there is a possibility for them to negatively affect activities, which are necessary for healthy growth and development. This includes things such as learning, communication, and nutrition.

Some of the reasons for which individuals fail to obtain the proper dental care for their children or those in their custody, include:

  • Inadequate finances
  • Parental Ignorance
  • Family isolation
  • Lack of understanding as to the value of oral health

A Responsibility for Maintenance of Care

Despite these reasons, among any others, a parent or guardian is still responsible for maintaining the care of a child or minor in his or her care. However, they will not be considered negligent and may not be intervened with until after they have been properly alerted by a health care professional about the child’s specific condition and necessary treatment, as well as how they may access that treatment.

Medical Professionals Help Break Barriers

The physician or dentist, who takes notice of the child’s dental neglect, must be sure to see that the parents or guardians of that child understand the disease and what that means for the child. Additionally, the physician or dentist must attempt to aid the caregivers in any barriers that are influencing their ability to care for their children. This includes things such as financial aid, access to necessary public facilities, and transportation. The physician or dentist should also reassure the parents or guardians that the child would be comfortable during any dental procedure. Then and only then, if the parents or guardians fail to seek the proper treatment for the child, the physician or dentist has an obligation to report the neglect to appropriate child protective services.

Potential Problems with Execution

And while the health and treatment of children everywhere is of the utmost importance, there still exist a few issues with reporting instances of suspected neglect. A doctor or dentist will be able to tell if a child is experiencing dental neglect by seeing them. What makes this difficult is when a child has not been seen by a medical professional. How is a medical professional to know that neglect is occurring if he or she doesn’t have exposure to the child? And how is a doctor or dentist to know that a child is not being seen and treated by another medical professional? Though good in theory, there are certain situations that may prove difficult to keep tabs on the dental health of children.

At The LaMaster Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience with the laws and regulations surrounding the dental industry. If you have any questions concerning dental neglect, do not hesitate to call The LaMaster Law Firm at 269-760-1499.