Craniofacial conditions and oral health

25 March 2021
2 min read

The dental care of children in the UK with craniofacial conditions needs to be integrated with their overall NHS management and treatment, says Sarah McKaig, president of the BSPD. A team member in the West Midlands supra-regional craniofacial unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, she was, until recently, the only paediatric dentist working within a specialised craniofacial unit.

Mrs McKaig has been on a mission to highlight the oral health needs of children and young people with a craniofacial deformity since she became the BSPD’s president in 2019. Her long-term aim is that a national pathway for this cohort of children with complex oral health needs should be established and funded.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mrs McKaig stayed on as president for an additional year and is now resuming her presidential tour of the branches, a BSPD tradition. She has visited the Wales branch study day as well as the Merseyside BSPD branch to deliver her lecture, ‘Meeting unmet needs: a voyage of discovery’.

In the course of the lecture, she outlined craniofacial conditions along with the diverse oral health needs of her young patients. She explores the dental care of these patients drawing on over a decade of experience. She described the responses to questionnaires sent to parents which demonstrated there is a huge variation in how children with craniofacial conditions access dental care and that they were all at high risk of developing dental caries. In a bid to provide further information to parents and carers an information leaflet had been developed to provide key oral health advice.

Around one fifth of children she sees on the clinic have untreated dental decay. She said, “We realised we were not capturing these children early enough and there is a need to establish their dental care pre-school.”

Prior to the pandemic, Mrs McKaig said, it was the intention to roll out the audit to the other highly specialised craniofacial units. “Although other units did not have a dentist involved, they were enthusiastic about being involved with the audit with a view to building a better picture on the dental needs for this group of patients.”

Having for years been the only consultant in paediatric dentistry working within a highly specialised craniofacial unit, there is now a second person, Joanna May, a consultant in paediatric dentistry based at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool

“Moving forward, we want to understand what the national picture looks like and how we can support one another in developing a robust preventative strategy and dental pathway for the management of children with craniofacial conditions. I hope that by engaging with the people and organisations involved we can understand the challenges and move ahead.”

Mrs McKaig is making virtual presentations to the BSPD South East branch on April 21 at 6.30pm, and to the Midlands branch study day on June 15.