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Child Maltreatment: The Role of a Dental Professional

Course Number: 599

Introduction

Child maltreatment is a widespread problem that touches all ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic segments of our society. The United States Department of Health & Human Services reports that in 2017, there were 674,000 substantiated reports of child maltreatment, including 1,720 fatalities. Because many incidents of child maltreatment go unreported, the number of children subjected to abuse and neglect is believed to be far greater. Health professionals are legally mandated to report suspected cases of child maltreatment to the proper authorities consistent with the laws of the jurisdiction in which they practice. Since craniofacial, head, face, and neck injuries often occur in child abuse cases, dentists may be the first health professionals to see an abused child. Therefore, it is important for dental professionals to be able to identify possible maltreatment and comply with legal obligations for documenting and reporting those situations.