The mother of a 4-year-old girl in Panama City, Florida has been arrested and charged with child neglect after failing to follow-up on the recommendations of several dentists for dental care for the child. The father has been named as a co-defendant.

Dentists for the child had repeatedly told her 21-year-old mother, Catlyn Haley, that the tooth decay in the child’s mouth had resulted in “severe cavities,” that would require surgery. Records indicate that the child’s teeth were “blackened and rotting,” when she was examined by a pediatric dentist in March 2014.

The recommendation was made after the parental neglect of the child’s oral hygiene had progressed to the point where surgical intervention was required. The surgery was scheduled by the dentist’s office, but the parents failed to obtain the required physical examination for the child and cancelled the surgery.

The sheriff’s office in Bay County, Florida acted after it had been determined that the parents had failed to act on the advice of the dentists for almost 18-months, which almost certainly resulted in a worsening condition for the child. The sheriff’s report noted that, “…the child stated that she does not brush her top teeth because it hurts.”

According to the National Children’s Oral Health Organization, pediatric dental disease is the #1 chronic childhood illness, five times more common than asthma and seven times more than hay fever.

In addition to obvious consequences such as oral infections and difficulty chewing, which leads to malnourishment, poor oral hygiene and dental care creates problems for a child as they learn to speak and begin school.

Equally important are the negative consequences in terms of socialization and self-esteem. Dental issues, such as poor parental guidance, at an early age can instill a life-long fear of dentists and an avoidance of adequate oral hygiene as an adult.

The American Dental Association estimates that 17 million children in America go without dental care each year, and that 25% of children 2-5 years old suffer from tooth decay.

It is not known if the parents have retained counsel or what defense they intend to present to the court.




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