It may come as a surprise to learn that when a parent, guardian, or any other party who is responsible for a child’s care allows that child to suffer from dental neglect, they can be held accountable in civil court.
We reached out to a school abuse lawyer in Detroit to discuss these types of cases and learn more about when dental neglect becomes abuse and when a parent can be held both civilly and criminally responsible for something like dental neglect.
There are many different types of dental diseases. It isn’t a simple case of having a couple of cavities. When a child is diagnosed with periodontal disease, dental caries, infections, or other types of untreated oral health conditions, there may be a case of dental neglect.
Some of the most common signs of dental neglect include the following:
- Early childhood caries (ECC)
- Rampant caries
- Gum disease
- Bottle caries
- Aptha lesions
- Poor oral hygiene at home
- Early tooth loss
- Recurring abscesses
- Odontogenic infections
- Tooth discoloration
The parents of a child showing signs of dental neglect may face criminal charges for child abuse, but other parties who may have encountered the child and failed to report it, as mandated by state law, could also be held accountable for the neglect the child suffered.
Dentists and dental hygienists are also mandated reporters, but in order for these types of oral health issues to be considered neglectful, it is important to consider whether the parents of the child are aware of the issues in question or if they are simply uneducated about proper dental care for their kids.
Parents need to be informed of what types of preventative dental care are appropriate for their child based on how old they are. For example, you wouldn’t expect parents to floss the teeth of a nine month old baby. However, you would expect parents to be teaching their children how to properly floss the teeth of their nine year old.
Brushing children’s teeth at least twice a day, brushing their tongue, flossing, and bringing children to a pediatric dentist for preventative dental care, including routine teeth cleanings and cavity fillings when necessary are essential parts of good oral hygiene.
That isn’t to say forgetting to brush your child’s teeth one night before bed is considered neglectful, but never brushing your children’s teeth at all or failing to bring them to the dentist for a checkup when there are signs of tooth decay would be.