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​​Children in society

Children's rights

Children's rights are defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC).11 This is an international human rights treaty that applies to all children and young people under the age of 18 years. It has implications for both child protection practice and provision of dental care.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 19​8911​: some extracts and their implications for the dental team

​UNCRC Article ​Implications for Child Protection ​Implications for the Dental Team

​Article 2:The rights of all children should be respected without discrimination

​All children deserve protection from abuse and neglect ​All children should have equal access to dental services regardless of location, ethnicity, social status or disability

Article 3: The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children

​The Children Act 1989 emphasizes that in all matters relating to child protection the welfare of the child is paramount ​All dental care for children must be carried out in child’s best interests
​Article 19: Children should be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation ​UK legislation and government guidance lays out procedures for multiagency working to protect children ​The dental team needs to be alert to indicators of possible abuse or neglect and to be prepared to act on any concerns
Article 23: Any mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community ​It is well recognised that children with disabilities are more prone to abuse and neglect; they deserve equal levels of protection and care

​Dental services and individual practitioners need to be sensitive to the needs of children with disabilities to ensure they are not excluded from appropriate standards of dental care

​Article 24: Children have a right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health ​Child abuse and neglect results in direct short and long term impacts on children’s health, growth and development ​Dental neglect or non-accidental oral injury affect a child’s overall well-being; all children should have access to preventive dental care and to treatment services for oral disease and injury

Children's needs

To develop to their full potential, children have many and varied needs. These include:

    • the need for an adequate diet and exercise
    • opportunities for play and interaction with others
    • stable and affectionate relationships with parents or carers
    • to be kept safe and to receive appropriate healthcare.

When child protection concerns have been raised about a child, agencies aim to look at the whole picture. They consider not only what has happened to the child, but also the child’s health and development, and the wider family and environmental context. The factors to consider are detailed in the ‘Framework for the assessment of Children in Need and their families’. 1

Framework for the assessment of Children in Need and their families (reproduced with permission of the Department of Health)


What children want

Increasingly children and young people are being consulted about what they want from health and other services. Being healthy and staying safe are things that really matter to children themselves. When we provide dental care for children we need to take into consideration children's rights, their needs and what they want.​