Dentists and the dental team are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. In fact, anyone can make a report of suspected cased of abuse or neglect. The whole dental team should be aware of the increased incidences of abuse and know the indicators to watch for.
Multiple studies have confirmed that more than 50% and up to 75% of child abuse involved trauma to the mouth, face or head. As well, while abuse parents may not go to the same doctor (fearing the doctor will recognize the abuse), abusive parents do often tend to return to the same dentists.
The percentage of dentists who file reports of suspected child abuse or neglect is small. Data shows the majority of reports come from teachers, social workers, and permissive reporters (individuals who report out of concern for the child).
It is the responsibility of the whole dental team to watch for the indicators and to document anything they suspect to be abuse. Make sure the documents are dated, clearly written, and are precise documentation on location, findings, colors, types of indicators, behavioral indicators and if the patient had any explanations as to what happened.
Documentation is key to follow up on repeat cases and to have proof if a case would come to court.
Abuse in society is an ever-increasing concern to all people. Abuse occurs in homes, workplaces, in public places, schools, and health care facilities and on the street. Most often someone known to the victim commits the violence’s but abuse can also be random, and spontaneous, as well as calculated to overpower and control.
All forms of abuse are damaging to the victim and can have short term or long-term effects on the victim’s mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Domestic Abuse is violence or abuse by one person against another in a marriage or cohabitation relationship.
The abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, economic, and sexual.
Child abuse is the emotional, sexual or physical maltreatment or neglect of a child. Child abuse includes anything that results in harm, potential harm or threat of harm to a child. It can occur in the child’s home, school, or in the community the child lives in.
There are 4 categories of child abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Psychological or emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
Elder abuse can be in a single or repeated act where the elder lacks appropriate care, which caused harm or distress to the elder person.
Information provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers.
- Fractured and broken teeth
- Oral lacerations
- Fractures and dislocations of the jaw
- Bruising of the face or body
- The presence of several injuries that are healing at various stages
- Adult bite marks
- Black eyes
- Injuries to bone or soft tissue
- Hair loss or bald patches
- Severe periodontal disease
- Enamel erosion which may result from the effects of bulimia or prolonged sperm containment in the mouth
- Overly withdrawn and fearful children who avoid being noticed by adults
- Excessive nervous, anxious or eager to please child
- Uncharacteristically aggressive, violent child who shows uncontrolled rage
- Excessive gagging when objects are placed in the mouth
- Parent-child interactions in which the parent is striking or verbally abusive
- Runaway attempts and fear of going home
- Delay of treatment
- Poor self-care, nutrition and neglect of oral health
- Reluctance to obtain treatment
- Ill fitting dentures