Child abuse and neglect (maltreatment) is a widespread problem that permeates all ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic segments of our society. Over the past two decades, the incidence of child abuse and neglect has increased dramatically, to the point where approximately 3.6 million cases were reported, with 25% substantiated as victims of child maltreatment, in 2005.1,2 All 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.3 But dentists, as a group, have been fairly inactive participants in recognizing and reporting child maltreatment when compared to other health professionals. This lack of involvement is especially unfortunate in light of recent hospital studies which indicate that injuries to the head and neck occur in 65 to 75% of the cases of physically abused children.4-6 Additionally, many visual and behavioral symptoms of sexual and emotional abuse and neglect are easily discernable to dentists who are well-informed of and alert to this problem.

This continuing education course will provide information on the various types of child abuse and neglect; describe its victims and perpetrators; and outline dentists’ responsibilities in the recognition, reporting, treatment, and prevention of such cases.