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Dentist wins support for sweets stand: Children barred in dispute over diet

THE RIGHT of a dentist to de-register patients who ignore advice and neglect their teeth was defended by the British Dental Association yesterday.

The backing came after two children were struck off a register by a dentist who claimed their mother ignored his repeated advice that they ate too many sweets. The final straw for the dentist was believed to have been when he was treating one child for an abscess and the mother asked if she could give her younger son a sweet.

The mother, Pamela Collins, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, complained that she and her nine- year-old daughter and five-year- old son had been turned away from the surgery when she took them for their last appointment. Her daughter Rachel had been having treatment for an abscess when she was sent a letter by Sharif Khan, the dentist, saying: 'I feel that the treatment I have been providing is of little value if their dietary habits are poor and show no signs of improvement.'

Giving three months' notice, he said he would treat the children only if they were in pain. 'I hope that you understand that it is not in the children's best interests to continue invasive treatment if there are no preventative measures being taken,' he wrote.

John Hunt, chief executive of the British Dental Association, said: 'I think the dentist must have the right to ask the patient to be deregistered,' he said. 'We recognise now that there is little point in constantly providing fillings . . . and crowns and so forth in a mouth that is not being properly looked after. Patients do have that responsibility to look after their own mouths.'

He admitted the responsibility that children could be expected to have was limited, but insisted that 'parents have a part to play'.

Mrs Collins, who lives in Durkar, Wakefield, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: 'I am concerned a professional can stop treating children. I think he should find another profession.' Earlier, she said: 'They eat sweets . . . but they certainly don't nibble all the time. They can go days without eating any chocolate.'

But Mr Khan said he repeatedly warned Mrs Collins that her children should stop eating sweets. 'I have got 1,000 patients here and I do what is in their best interests, even if it involves upsetting their mothers. I stand my ground.'

Michael Watson, spokesman for the British Dental Association said: 'I don't know that I would advise the dentist to write to a patient in those terms. I think it is unfortunate.' However, he said that he had spoken to Mr Khan, who was bound by patient confidentiality, but added: 'If I had a patient who had a child eating a sweet in the surgery and I asked them to stop and they didn't, that would be the basis for the relationship breaking down.'

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