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Paediatric dento-facial infections – a potential tool for identifying children at risk of neglect?

Key points

  • Acute dento-facial/ cervico-facial infection in children may be an indicator of wider neglect.
  • 40.7% of children presenting dento-facial / cervico-facial infection were already know to social services.
  • More than 50% of children presenting with dento-facial infection were between 5-8 years old, suggesting this group is at greater risk of dental neglect



Child neglect has a significant impact on children’s physical and emotional health and development with lifelong consequences. Dental decay can lead to maxillofacial space infections which can have life-threatening complications and may indicate that a child has suffered dental neglect.

Aims and method

In this retrospective audit, we reviewed children below sixteen years who were admitted under oral and maxillofacial surgery for incision and drainage of a dental/facial abscess, under general anaesthesia, between January 2015 and January 2017, to understand if they had experienced dental neglect. We also assessed if they were or had been known to Children’s Social Services (SS) before hospital admission.


Twenty-seven children were included in the study, eleven children (40%), were known to social services (SS). On average 3.2 teeth were extracted with an average hospital stay of 2.5 days.


Our data indicate that a significant number of children admitted for maxillofacial space infection are already known to social services.


Our recommendation is that all children admitted with dental/maxillofacial space infections, where dental neglect may be present, should be discussed with the local safeguarding team.