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Oral features of dental neglect

The following is a summary of the systematic review findings up to the date of our most recent literature search. If you have a specific clinical case, we strongly recommend you read all of the relevant references as cited and look for additional material published outside our search dates.


Oral features


  • All studies documented caries, many of which were “nursing bottle caries” or extensive early caries 1-11
  • Dental pain was a recorded feature in three studies 6,8,11
  • One larger study of children aged three to eight years noted that 60.5% required extractions for dental caries, which included conditions that were painful or carried a risk of infection 8
  • One study noted that abused children had a significantly higher number of caries compared to controls 9
  • One study of 65 buprenorphine-exposed infants were recalled for examination at 3-4 years of age and compared to control infants.  Those antenatally exposed to buprenorphine had a higher decayed, missing, filled teeth (dmft) index and were less likely to be caries free than controls.  They were also more likely to have visible plaque.  There were no differences in dental trauma or developmental enamel defects 5

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  1. Blumberg, ML, Kunken FR. The dentist's involvement with child abuse. The New York State Dental Journal. 1981;47(2) 65-69. [Pubmed citation only]
  2. Butts AC, Henderson LM. Navajo Indian dental neglect intervention program. Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association. 1990;70(1):42-45. [Pubmed citation only]
  3. Elice CE, Fields HW. Failure to thrive: review of the literature, case reports, and implications for dental treatment. Pediatric Dentistry. 1990;12(3):185-189. [Pubmed]
  4. Fakhruddin KS, Lawrence HP, Kenny DJ, Locker D. Impact of treated and untreated dental injuries on the quality of life of Ontario school children. Dental Traumatology. 2008;24(3):309-313. [Pubmed]
  5. Kivistö K, Alapulli H, Tupola S, Alaluusua S, Kivitie-Kallio S. Dental health of young children prenatally exposed to buprenorphine. A concern of child neglect? European Archives of Pediatric Dentistry. 2014;15(3):197-202 [Pubmed]

  6. Kvist T, Zedrén-Sunemo J, Graca E, Dahllöf G. Is treatment under general anaesthesia associated with dental neglect and dental disability among caries active preschool children? European Archives of Pediatric Dentistry. 2014;15(5):327-332 [Pubmed]

  7. Loochtan RM, Bross DC, Domoto PK. Dental neglect in children: definition, legal aspects, and challenges. Pediatric Dentistry. 1986;8(1 Spec No): 113-116. [Pubmed citation only]
  8. Mansour ON, Bagesund M. Reasons for extractions, and treatment preceding caries-related extractions in 3-8 year-old children. European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry. 2010;11(3):122-130. [Pubmed]
  9. Montecchi PP, Di Trani M, Sarzi Amadè D, Bufacchi C, Montecchi F, Polimeni A. The dentist's role in recognizing childhood abuses: study on the dental health of children victims of abuse and witnesses to violence. European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. 2009;10(4):185-187.[Pubmed]
  10. Thomson WM, Spencer AJ, Gaughwin A. Testing a child dental neglect scale in South Australia. Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology. 1996;24(5):351-356. [Pubmed]
  11. Von Kaenel D, Vitangeli D, Casamassimo PS, Wilson S, Preisch J. Social factors associated with pediatric emergency department visits for caries-related dental pain. Pediatric Dentistry. 2001;23(1):56-60. [Pubmed]


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