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Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Elder Abuse: Know the Basics

Course Number: 593

Signs of Intimate Partner Violence for Dental Professionals

Signs of IPV may be observable physical wounds or other marks. Almost 75% of IPV victims have injuries to their head and neck regions, the area of specialty for dental professionals.6 They could also include certain types of behavior or behavioral changes. Specific signs include:

  • Public and private demeaning actions by intimate partner. The partner may be reluctant to leave her or him alone during the appointment, is domineering, or answers all questions for a patient who would otherwise be capable of answering for him or herself.

  • Injuries to the neck, head, and face that may be in different stages of healing including:

    • intraoral bruising, patterned bruising around the neck due to strangulation;

    • abscessed, avulsed, or non-vital teeth;

    • lacerations, burns, fractures to teeth, mandible, maxilla, or nose;

    • torn frenum, complaints of headaches.

  • Various types of behavior changes, either observed or reported, including:

    • chronic pain or inability to sleep,

    • personality changes,

    • frightened behavior when with the opposite sex,

    • afraid to return home,

    • report of injuries caused by intimate partner,

    • drastic behavioral changes in presence of intimate partner,

    • victim appears embarrassed, vague, anxious, or depressed,

    • low self-esteem,

    • blaming self or others for everything,

    • changes in the patient’s routine including patients who used to come in for regular check-ups and who suddenly stops.

    • Exaggerated startle response

    • spontaneous tears

    • dissociation from eye contact (or a sudden fading out of the patient’s attention/responses to cues)

    • inability of patient to talk clearly due to breathing patterns or panic

    • reluctance or insecurity in answer questions posed by the dental professional