An important part to play


  Posted by: Dental Design      10th June 2020

Professor Richard Welbury CBE will be presenting in the Core CPD Theatre at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show on “Safeguarding and why it’s a priority for the dental team”. Richard is an Emeritus Professor of the Universities of Glasgow and Central Lancashire, having dually qualified in dentistry (1978) and medicine (1984) before receiving his PhD in 1989. Richard’s involvement with child safeguarding began in 1985, when he was the Senior House Officer in Plastic Surgery in Newcastle. Since then, he has worked extensively to raise awareness of the importance of child safeguarding by the dental team. In June 2019, Richard was appointed CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to paediatric dentistry, dental educational and the safeguarding of children.

Richard will be discussing the key topics that dental teams need to know in his session supported by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), of which is a Past President. About the main child safeguarding challenges dental professionals need to overcome, he comments:

“There is a huge amount of decay in our current young population. The question of dental neglect is a diagnosis one needs to consider when decay has been identified in a young patient, who is then not brought back into the practice. It is important during this process to fully assess the patient and discuss possible causes of the decay with the parent, such as diet, inadequate brushing or a lack of fluoride toothpaste. A treatment plan will then include a preventive plan and any necessary restorative treatment. If that child is not brought back to the practice to complete treatment, this fulfils the diagnosis of dental neglect. This is the greatest challenge that clinicians face in terms of safeguarding their child patients.

“A toolkit for dental professionals to follow when child patients are not brought to appointments has been devised by my colleague Jenny Harris, assisted by leadership fellow Jen Kirby, and has subsequently been published by the BDA.[i] It involves telephoning the parents, sending letters to parents, assessing the risk of harm in the event of no contact, followed by sharing information with general medical practitioners. This initiative has been shown to be very valuable to staff as it gives a structure by which to manage children who are not brought.”

“There are many possible reasons for children not being brought in, including parents’ dental fear or anxiety, the parent’s knowledge and attitudes towards dental issues, families moving address, or last-minute demands from other children. Some parents need support to ensure their children return to the practice for their essential dental care. Where they fail to engage with the practice, then the dental team may request support from child services and protection agencies.”

Safeguarding is still a relatively new area for dental teams to be involved with. As such, confidence among the profession regarding how to protect young patients isn’t as high as it could be.

“The role of dental professionals and all professionals who work with children was highlighted in Lord Laming’s Victoria Climbié Inquiry in 2003,” explains Richard. “It didn’t become a mandatory part of undergraduate dental education until 2006 in the UK. Although it is also now part of the compulsory CPD requirements, dental professionals are not yet that comfortable with the pathways for protecting children.

“I think it is most important that dental teams establish the local pathways available to them for help and assistance should they suspect any issues regarding a child patient. I would also recommend meeting with one of the local child protection nurses to start building a relationship with them. It is beneficial to put a face to a name and this also provides an opportunity for us to highlight to non-dental professionals the level of dental decay in child patients, as well as the number of general anaesthetics carried out every year in the UK for decayed teeth.”

Richard will cover all this and much more during his session at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show on Friday 15th May. He adds:

“I will focus on dental neglect, but I will also discuss the signs to be aware of that could suggest physical abuse on the head and neck. Dental professionals need to know these because they examine more children in their working life than a doctor. They need to know what to look for and who to go to for help. We might be relatively new to safeguarding children, but we have a very important part to play.”


The next British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show will be held on 21st and 22nd May 2021–Hall 5, Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.

For all the latest information or to register for free, please visit, call 020 7348 5270 or email



No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.