The blurred line between child neglect & lack of dental care: 5 insights

Dentists

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Back in March, Bartonsville, Pa.-based Smiles 4 Keeps sent a patient's parent a letter threatening to report the parent to child protective services for not scheduling the patient's dental care.

Since then, the discussion between lack of dental care and child neglect has hatched. While some believe the letter to the parent was necessary, others believe the letter was too invasive. Here are five thoughts on the dentists reporting child neglect, according to the New Jersey Herald.

1. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry requires dentists in all 50 states to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to social services and/or law enforcement agencies.

2. In New Jersey, dentists are mandated reports and are required to report possible child neglect or abuse due to their constant contact with children.

The state defines child neglect as when, "a parent or caregiver fails to provide for the child's basic medical needs." This includes dental care.

3. According to Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, "child neglect is a failure to meet a child's basic needs for life essentials on a daily basis, including necessary health and dental care. A child must show inconsistent or unprovided medical or dental care," the report states.

4. Smiles 4 Keeps responded to the backlash and support for the letter in a statement on Facebook. The post noted letters are not sent until multiple attempts have been made to reach the parent or guardian to ensure the patient receives proper dental care.

5. It The timeline to report a parent for child neglect remains unclear. In the case with Smiles 4 Keeps, the dentist was scheduling another appointment and needed to make accommodations. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry notes dentists can intervene once the parent has been properly notified and the condition of the child's care and specific treatment needed.

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